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Baddi Family Buried in Garbage by BBNDA Gets Relief from High Court, Authorities Directed to Relocate It

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Petition in Baddi Lanfill Case

Solan- The State Government of Himachal Pradesh is a disaster if its management and disposal of solid waste are considered. The State Pollution Control Board, local civil bodies, health department and every authority responsible for environmental protection and sanitation are in deep slumber, from which even the Hon’ble High Court is not able to wake them up. Not only these state agencies show disregard to environmental laws, court orders, but also show extreme insensitivity towards the lives of the people who are affected by unscientific dumping of solid waste and pollution of rivers.

The biggest example came to light when Kenduwal village in Baddi of Solan district approached the court with their plea to save them from the Baddi Municipal Council and Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Development Authority. They literally buried a family in the garbage by creating an illegal dumping site near their habitat. The BBNDA was supposed to construct a waste treatment plant in 2012, but instead they just created a dumping site that became a breeding ground for flies, mosquitoes, rats, etc. and it caused an alarming increase in the incident of illnesses even to people who live in the neighbouring villages like Sheetalpur, Malpur, Bhudd, and MalkhuMajra. Nearly 1200 residents had filed a complaint to the SDM, Baddi and submitted that the Baddi Municipal Council had been dumping waste near their village without developing the site.

The worst affected family, living just 30 meters from the landfill, had approached various authorities with their grievance but was not attended at all. One reason could be attributed to the fact that this family belonged to the minority community (Gujjars). After the advocate for the petitioner’s family, Deven Khanna, fought a long legal battle against the state, the family has now received some hope by getting interim relief.

On May 21, 2019, the High Court of Himachal Pradesh, while hearing the petition of the family, directed the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Development Authority (BBNDA) to consider relocating it.

In their application submitted to the court, the family had sought adequate compensation and rehabilitation/relocation. The petitioner had told the court that even after various orders from this Hon’ble Court, the responsible authorities were continuously disregarding the Solid Waste Management Rules and also the Orders of this Hon’ble Court.  As a result of it, the house of the affected family was turned into a garbage dump.

The petition also said that the authorities never took any consent from the adjoining houses before creating the dumping site, nor proposed relocation to the inhabitants. The petitioner with his family and cattle has been forced to live in life-threatening circumstances, the application said.

It’s pertinent to mention that despite the court orders to stop dumping waste on the said site, the authority allegedly took to threatening the petitioner’s family instead of acting on the orders.

“Petitioner is being threatened in various ways, while the mandatory compliances under the statute are continuously being flouted by the Respondents,”

the family had prayed in the application to the court.

Eventually, in its order passed on May 21, 2019, the court directed the authorities to consider relocation of the petitioner’s family.

In previous hearings, the court found out that the MC and BBNDA had obtained clearance for construction an Integrated Solid Waste Management Plant at this site in 2015, but never actually constructed it. Instead, it kept dumping entire waste in open.

The dumping ground violated several rules related to the creation of landfills. According to the Schedule (I) (a), Clause (VII) (VIII) of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016:

  1. The Landfill site shall be 100 mt away from river, 200 mt from a pond, 200 mt from highway, habitations, public parks and water-supply wells and 20 km away from airports or Airbase.
  2. The Landfill site shall not be permitted within these flood plains as recorded for the last 100 years, Zone of coastal regulation, wetland, critical habitat areas, sensitive eco-fragile areas.
  3. This landfill was created in violation of all these rules as it is located on a floodplain of Sirsa river and just 30 meters away from human habitat.

Further, this dumping site also violated the directions passed by the National Green Tribunal in its recent judgment (O.A No. 673/2018).

The directions of the Tribunal clearly mentions maintaining the environmental flow of the river, checking constructions on floodplains, setting up of regulating or stopping the industrial activity of polluting nature, checking mining activities and disposal of bio-medical and other wastes, etc.

After the court’s interventions, on February 25, 2019, the Chief Executive Officer, BBNDA, Baddi, District Solan, H.P. had filed an affidavit-cum-status report. In this affidavit, the Chief Executive Officer had said that they would be able to establish the complete processing facility at the designated site Kenduwal within 12 months i.e. before 8th February 2020.  The affidavit further said that the work of 100% collection and transportation of Municipal Solid Waste from within the entire project area comprising 41 Gram Panchayats as well as Municipal Council, Baddi, Municipal Council, Nalagarh and Municipal Council, Parwanoo will be started by May 8, 2019.

In this order, the court had said,

“Though, as per the affidavit, BBNDA has placed 109 dumpers, 12 garbage collection tanks, 3 dumper placers, 5 tractor trolleys, and 60 labourers, yet the fact of the matter is that the entire untreated Municipal Solid Waste is not being picked up and substantial part thereof is being dumped in open.”

“We, therefore, direct the BBNDA to submit a time-bound plan for lifting the entire Municipal Solid Waste lying in open area and for that purpose if need be, let the proposal be sent to the State Government for its intervention to provide additional machinery and manpower under the Corporate Social Responsibility,”

the court order further stated.

Later, in another status report-cum-affidavit filed in the court on April 8, 2019, the Chief Executive Officer had told the court that the following steps would be taken in compliance with the orders passed by the court:

  1. Additional 33 dumpers (garbage containers) in the 33 left out Gram Panchayat will be placed by the concessionaire by 15/04/2019.
  2. The detailed project report will be submitted by the concessionaire upto 20/04/2019.
  3. The operational plan for collection and transportation of Municipal Solid Waste will be submitted by the concessionaire up to 25/04/2019.
  4. The electronic weighbridge will be installed by the concessionaire at the designated site Kenduwal upto 30/04/2019.
  5. The CCTV cameras will be installed by the concessionaire at the designated site Kenduwal upto 30/04/2019.
  6. The work of 100% collection and transportation of Municipal Solid Waste from within the entire project area by deploying about 180 number of employees will be started by the concessionaire by 08/05/2019.

Currently, some of the solid waste was still being dumped on the same site while remaining was being sent to a treatment plant in Chandigarh. The work of construction of a waste treatment plant is also underway.

Further, in his elaborated petition filed in 2018, the advocate for the petitioners had urged the court to consider the lack of solid waste management and treatment facility in the entire state, which leads to environmental degradation on a large scale. In their petition, petitioners through Advocate Deven Khanna had requested the court to pass following directions:

General direction to the local bodies to strictly impose a heavy fine on the violators of the law.

  1. Ordering absolute Strictness with regards to throwing garbage in water bodies (rivers, nallahs). He suggested that the fine collected should be used for the restoration of the damaged places.
  2. Officers in charge should be made personally liable if flagrant violations are found in their jurisdictions
  3. Secretary, Town Planning should be directed to ensure that the Master Plan of every city in the State has the provision for setting up of solid waste processing and disposal facilities
  4. Secretary, Urban Development of the State of Himachal and Secretary Panchayats/Rural Development should be directed to prepare the State policy and strategy on solid waste management for the entire State in consultation with the stakeholders.
  5. District Magistrates in the State in coordination with the Secretary, Urban Development, should be directed to ensure identification and allocation of suitable land
  6. Pollution Control Board should be directed to ensure due compliance of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 as per Rule 16 of the Rules.
  7. Direction should be passed to the local authorities i.e. Municipalities, Municipal Corporations, and Panchayat Raj Institutions not to dump the garbage in the river streams/rivulets and forest areas forthwith.
  8. All the Municipalities, Municipal Corporations, Panchayats and other statutory authorities, throughout the State, should be directed to regularly publish the names of concerned Superintendents of Sanitation, Medical Officers and Sanitary Officers and such equivalent officers who are responsible for cleaning the State who can be approached for any complaint/grievance by the citizens of the State.

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 9 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture the world around him in his DSLR lens.

Environment

After 15 Years of Passing of Forest Rights Act, Implementation in Himachal Still in Doldrums, Jeopardizing Ecological Conservation

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Forest rights fight in himachal pradesh

Shimla-‘Planting a tree to celebrate World Environment Day has been reduced to a symbolic tradition. But is this enough for the conservation of our ecology? The efficacy and use of plantation drives are being questioned all across the world today. These drives, especially when conducted by the government tend to be a wastage of resources due to poor survival rates, said environmental and community groups in Himachal Pradesh in a joint statement released recently on World Environment Day.

Further, trees are just one part of our ecosystem which comprises soil, grasslands, scrubs, wetlands, wildlife and even human beings, the statement said.  

In India, especially in the Himalayas communities have co-existed with nature since times immemorial – dependent on it for day-to-day life and livelihoods, the groups said. Because of this connection between forests and local livelihoods and culture-communities across the landscape fought to protect the ecosystems they inhabit from destruction – be it the Chipko movement in Uttarakhand 50 years ago or the recent struggles in the tribal district of Kinnaur to highlight the ill-effects of dams and hydropower projects – indigenous and forest-dependent people have protected forest resources, they said.

“It is unfortunate then that these historical custodians of forests were labelled ‘encroachers’ and ‘thieves’ as their livelihoods were displaced from forests sometimes to build dams, highways and cities and at other times in the name of conservation were restricted from using the forests citing forest laws,” the statement said.

The groups said this has happened in Himachal too, where communities like pastoralists and farmers are slowly getting alienated from the forests. This jeopardizes their capacity to protect the forests too – whether from natural calamities like fires or indiscriminate felling. 

Forest revival and afforestation programs, it is understood the world over, are only successful when local communities are made in charge and are given full access to use the forest and make decisions about its management.

“We have examples of community forest management like Gramya Jungles of Orissa and Van Panchayats of Uttarakhand. This became part of the Forest Policy in 1988 which is why programs like Joint Forest Management were planned for participatory governance of forests. However, in these too the forest department retained their control and communities were used as labour to plant trees,” the groups highlighted.

Based on these experiences and the repeated evictions of forest-dependent people from their rightful use it became apparent that there was a need for a law that recognised the community’s right to both use and protect/ govern the forest, they said.

It was after years of struggle that the Forest Rights Act 2006 was passed by the parliament of India. The Act recognises individual and community rights over any kind of forest lands for those dependent on these for their bonafide livelihood needs before 13th December 2005. The act also recognises development rights and community management rights. Himachal, where 2/3rd of the landscape is legally classified as ‘forest’ – there is a tremendous need and potential to implement this law to secure the land and livelihood rights of people on forest lands be they for fuelwood, fodder, pastures as well as farming and shelter. 

The statement said today it has been 15 years since the passing of FRA but in Himachal, its implementation is in the doldrums.

“While 20 lakh forest rights claims have been accepted all across the country in Himachal only 164 claims have been recognised whereas 2700 are pending with the administration at various levels. The key reasons for the poor implementation include – lack of political will, misinformation about the act amongst the line officials, distrust of the people leading to non-filing of claims and inadequate awareness amongst common people,” the statement said.

It further said that, ironically, the state government has shown great enthusiasm in using this act to grant forest land for village development activities, the rest of the rights namely individual and community forest use and management rights are languishing due to state negligence and actively blocking the granting of these rights. 

The groups further highlighted that in the last 5 years, community voices from Kangra, Chamba, Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti, Sirmaur and Mandi have been raising the demand for the implementation of this law in the state.  It was after this that the state government was forced to announce that it would implement the Forest Rights Act in a mission mode in the state in 2018. The tribal department also worked on training and making educational material on the act. However, these are yet to be properly distributed at the village level.

The joint statement further added that in March 2020 post the pandemic led lockdown the FRA implementation process received a setback. Even as gram sabha meetings and FRC processes came to a grinding halt the economy too got hit. During this time, it became evident more than ever that it is the land and forest-based livelihoods that are available to rural communities to fall back on for survival. 

“Whereas the Government should be focused on strengthening land and nature-based livelihoods for the local communities. However, the focus of the state remains on pushing destructive commercial ventures in ecologically fragile areas and valuable farmlands of the state,” the groups said.  

The coronavirus has taught the world what the climate crisis had already indicated – that we will continue to be victims of such crisis as long as the ecological destruction continues unabated, the statement said.

“This calls for a change in the model of ‘development’ which prioritises the basic needs and services rather than run blindly after economic growth which is meant to profit companies and contractors”, the groups said.

The statement also said that it is the communities who will now have to believe in their own capacity to manage lives and resources and also call the government to account if our natural resources have to be protected for future generations. 

Signatories

  • Ajay Kumar, Sanjay Kumar, Advocate Dinesh, Bhoomiheen Bhoomi Adhikar Manch, Himachal
  • Birbal Chaurhan, Shamlat Sangharsh Samiti, Sirmaur
  • Gulab Singh and Dhaniram Shamra, Sirmaur Van Adhikar Manch
  • Joginder Walia Balh Ghaati Kisaan Sangharsh Samiti, Mandi
  • Jiya Negi, Van Adhikar Samiti, Kinnaur
  • Kulbhushan Upmanyu, Himalaya Bachao Samiti, Chamba
  • Lal Hussain, Ghumantu Pashupalak Mahasabha, Chamba
  • Meera Devi, Nekram,Shyam Singh Chauhan, Paryavaran evam Gram Vikas Samiti, Karsog, Mandi
  • Himshi Singh and Prakash Bhandari, Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective
  • Prem Katoch and Kesang Thakur, Save Lahaul Spiti, Lahaul
  • Tenzin Takpa and Sonam Targey, Spiti Civil Society, Spiti  

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

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Himachal: Report Forest Fires on Toll-Free Numbers 1077 and 1070

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helpline for Forest Fires in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Forest fire is a recurrent annual phenomenon in Himachal Pradesh and causes losses worth several crores every year. Dry spell and summers make forests, especially chir pine forests, highly vulnerable to forest fires. These forest fires not only damage the forest wealth but also hit wildlife and biodiversity in general. The forest department attributes most fires to human factors.

Like every year, the forest department has claimed that it is all geared up and ready to combat forest fires this year too. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Dr. Savita on Monday held a virtual review meeting with Forest Circles on preparedness for forest fires in the state.

She said that the Forest department was well prepared to fight the forest fires and a rapid forest fire fighting force and rapid response teams had been set up at forest division and range levels.

“Approximately 40,000 man-days of fire watchers would be engaged by the department in addition to existing frontline staff for preventing and combating forest fires,” she said. The state disaster control room with toll-free number 1077 at the state level and 1070 at the district level were operational for reporting of the forest fire by the local community, she informed.

Dr. Savita said messages regarding forest fire had been shared with the members of the rapid forest fire fighting force, in which approximately 50,000 volunteers had already been registered. Awareness to the community was also conducted through Nukkar Nataks, songs, speeches and other activities at different locations in the state. Besides, a massive state-level awareness program was also conducted at 45 places from 10 to 17 March 2021

She said that the department had created forest fire lines and did control burning and also constructed water storage structures in the forest areas to combat forest fires. Additional multi-utility vehicles and water loaded tankers in 80 fire-sensitive ranges had been engaged for three months. She that matter regarding Standard Operating Systems (SOPs) for requisition of helicopter services for dousing the forest fires had been sent to the Government for approval. 

Feature Photo: Unsplash@Thematthoward

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Himachal Counts 108,578 Waterbirds of 96 Species This Year With Increase in Habitat

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Annual Bird Count in Himachal Pradesh 2021

Shimla-The habitat of migratory and resident water-birds in Himachal Pradesh has gradually improved, said Forest Minister Rakesh Pathania.

The annual water-bird count at Pong Dam Lake Wildlife Sanctuary was conducted in the first of February, 2021 and the exercise was conducted under restrained conditions due to the prevailing Avian Influenza outbreak in Pong Dam Lake as well as the COVID-19 Pandemic, he said.

The exercise was conducted by Wildlife wing of Himachal Pradesh by deploying 57 staff members in 26 sections of the sanctuary for counting the water-dependent birds.

Total 108,578 birds of 96 species were counted during this year. Out of the total number, 101,431 of 51 species are water-dependent migratory birds and 6,433 of 29 species are water-dependent resident birds. As many as 714 birds of 16 other species were also recorded. The total population of the flagship species, Bar-Headed Geese, is 40,570.

The other species which have higher population count during this year are Eurasian Coot (24,163), Northern Pintail (12,702), Common Teal (8,444), Little Cormorant (3,649), Great Cormorant (3,410), Grey Lag Goose (2,297), Northern Shoveler (2,275) and Common Pochard (2,138). The species which find noticeable mention are Red Necked Grebe, Great Bittern, Lesser White-Fronted Goose, Red Crested Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Pied Avocet, Northern Lapwing, Peregrine Falcon etc. During the counting exercise, one Bar-headed Goose and one Grey Lag Goose with collars were also spotted.

This year the Annual bird count exercise assumes significance, considering the Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary. Further, the Minister expressed satisfaction over the timely and effective containment measures taken by Wildlife Wing to control and contain Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary.

PCCF (Wildlife) Archana Sharma and CCF Wildlife (North) Dharamshala Upasana Patial also participated and supervised the Annual Water Bird Count.

The total population of birds, as well as number of species, counted this year are marginally less as compared to last year, probably due to the impact of Avian Influenza outbreak which was first reported on 28th December 2020.

Although the total population of water birds declined during the peak of the Avian Influenza outbreak, there is a gradual increase in the total population of birds, the Minister informed.

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