Ravines, wetlands of Vishwamitri continue to be systematically destroyed, filled with debris

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In a fresh letter, concerned citizens of Vadodara* have protested against what they have called “casual, trivial, and flippant response of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation” (VMC), saying,  the VMC’s response dated June 11, 2019 to their complaint made on May 22, 2019 on the need for action to “prevent anticipated disasters, flooding and water logging” in Vadodara.

Referring to Vadodara authorities’ failure to reclaim ravines and water detention areas by allowing debris to be dumped in low lying areas, the concerned citizens have warned that inaction to take steps will invite legal action. Addressed to senior Government of India and Government of Gujarat officials**, the letter warns, “You will be liable as an individual to compensate if any damage is done to environment and the affected communities.”

Text of the letter:

Following are some of the major issues that were raised in our letter dated 22.05.2019:

  1. Violation of ‘The Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016’, ‘The Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 ’and direction of Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), Gandhinagar dated 08.01.2018
  2. Violation of the Gujarat High Court Order dated 02.08.2002 in SCA No. 10621 of 2000 (Shailesh Shah V/s State of Gujarat)
  3. Violation of the Interim Order dated 25.05.2016 of the Hon’ble National Green Tribunal (Western Bench) in Application No. 49 of 2016 (Rohit Prajapati and Anr V/s Secretary MoEFCC & Ors)
  4. Non-compliance by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation of the Order No. SEIAA/GuJ/General/512/2016 dated 09.08.2016 passed by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), Gujarat passed in the Withdrawal Application for VRDP Project No. SIA/GJ/NCP/4584/2015 dated 05/08/2016 of Vadodara Municipal Corporation
  5. Violation of the Order dated 22.02.2017 of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 375 of 2012 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors) and NGT, Principal Bench, Delhi Order dated 03.08.2018 and 19.02.2019 in Original Application No. 593 of 2017, (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors) amounting to the Contempt of the Court.
  6. Letters to the Municipal Commissioner and others on this subject, dated 25.12.2017, 04.01.2018, 14.06.2018, 02.07.2018, 20.10.2018, 22.11.2018, and 30.01.2019.

The ravines and wetlands of River Vishwamitri are being systematically destroyed and filled with debris and municipal solid waste in order to reclaim land for further “development”. This practice is still continuing and getting worse with apparently no repercussions to the concerned authorities and parties. This will further augment the already existing waterlogging and flooding woes in various parts of the city. This is happening despite the prevailing laws of the land, directions of concerned authorities, and Courts’ Orders.

The reply through a letter, dated 11.06.2019, by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) and sent and copied to us, is highly casual, trivial, and flippant; it does not even attempt to address any of the grave concerns raised by us in our letter to them, dated 22.05.2019. It is quite apparent that the VMC is taking this matter very lightly and hence this response sent to us is not acceptable, especially when it is coming from accountable representatives of a government authority. The letter is in Gujarati, the content of which is translated below:

“Office of In-charge Engineer
Futuristic Planning Cell
Vadodara Municipal Corporation
Khanderao Market Building, Rajmahal Road,
Vadodara – 390 209

Outward Number: 310/19-20

Date: 11.06.2019

To:

  1. In-charge Engineer (East, West, North, South Zone)
  2. In-charge Engineer (Stormwater Gutter and Drainage Project, Water Supply Distribution, Bridge Project, Water Supply Distribution)
  3. In-charge Engineer (Solid Waste Management Department)
  4. Assistant Municipal Commissioner (East, West, North, South Zone)
  5. In-charge Engineer (Chief Minister Housing Project)
  6. In-charge Engineer (Prime Minister Housing Project)

Subject: Regarding Letter, dated 22.05.2019, of Shree Rohit Prajapati.

With reference to the above subject and context, the letter dated 22.05.2019 received on 01.06.2019 of Rohit Prajapati is attached herewith. You are requested to read the letter in detail and do the needful in accordance to the letter related to your department / office.

Thank you.

         In-charge Engineer
         Futuristic Planning Cell
         Vadodara Municipal Corporation

Enclosure: Copy of the letter of Shree Rohit Prajapati, dated 22.05.2019.

Copy Sent for Information:

Rohit Prajapati
37, Patrakar Colony,
Tandalja Road,
Vadodara – 390020 (9408986452)”

The above response is indicative of a flagrant attitude to superficially appease. It is apparent that the VMC is looking to pass off the buck from one table to another to while away precious time. This nonchalant or “go-slow” attitude of the concerned VMC officers, including the Commissioner, portrays insincerity towards the concerns of the citizens.

Whereas, we have received the letter dated June 3, 2019 from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, National River Conservation Directorate’s Joint Director, sent to the Additional Chief Secretary of Forests & Environment Department, that clearly states:

“I am directed to enclose a copy of a letter dated 22.05.2019 received from Sh. Rohit Prajapati … regarding irregularities in waste management and the threat to environment in Vadodara, destroying the ecology of ravines and wetlands there.

“It is, therefore, requested that steps may be taken to protect the ecology of the wetlands and ravines there through effective waste management. You are also requested to send an Action Taken Report to the applicant under intimation to this Ministry.”

Such misconduct by the VMC invites stringent actions from all responsible and concerned authorities and that is why we look forward to not only your positive, prompt and firm response, but also an exemplary and immediate action to protect, restore, and nurture the environment; thoroughly relook at all the development activities; and promote better development in and around Vadodara, especially the Vishwamitri River and its environs and to instill trust in the Government.

*Mr. Rohit Prajapati, Environment Activist, Researcher, and Writer
Ms. Neha Sarwate, Environmental and Urban Planner
Dr. Ranjitsinh Devkar, Zoologist
Dr. Shishir R. Raval, Landscape Architect and Ecological Planner
Dr. Deepa Gavali, Wetland Ecologist
Dr. Jitendra Gavali, Botanist
Mr. Shakti Bhatt, Water Resources Expert
Dr. Arjun Singh Mehta, Biotechnologist
Dr. Jayendra Lakhmapurkar, Hydro-Geologist
Mr. Hitarth Pandya, Educationist and Writer
Mr. Rutvik Tank, Civil Engineer and Urban Planner
Ms. Dhara Patel, Landscape Architect and Architect
Ms. Taniya Vaidya, Artist and Educator
Mr. Sadanand Ambadkar, Consultant
**The letter has been addressed to:
The Secretary,
Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change
Union of India.
The Chief Secretary
Government of Gujarat.
The Additional Chief Secretary
Forests & Environment Department,
State of Gujarat.
The Principal Secretary
Urban Development and Urban Housing Department,
State of Gujarat.
The Chairman
Gujarat Pollution Control Board
The Member Secretary
Gujarat Pollution Control Board
The Collector, Vadodara.
The Chairman
Vadodara Urban Development Authority
The Zonal Officer
Central Pollution Control Board
Vadodara.
The Regional Officer
Gujarat Pollution Control Board
Vadodara.
The Municipal Commissioner
Vadodara Municipal Corporation.

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