Goel Ganga Developers India Pvt Ltd, which stemmed from flouting environment clearance (EC) norms, has peaked with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) modifying its order on compensation. The developer was asked to Rs 105 crore as recovery cost for environment damage caused by their Vadgaon Budruk projects — Ganga Bhagyoday, Ganga Bhagyoday Towers and Amrut Ganga, as per news reports from Pune.
The bench of justice UD Salvi and expert member Dr Nagin Nanda recently asked the developer to pay Rs 190 crore or five per cent of the project’s total cost as compensation be assessed by State Environment Appraisal Committee (SEAC), whichever is more. The amount will be directed towards restoration and restitution of environment damage and degradation caused by the construction, which took place without EC.
Apart from Goel Ganga, the principal secretary, state environment department, state-level environment impact assessment authority (SEIAA), state appraisal committee-III (SEAC-III), Pune Municipal Commissioner (PMC) and city engineer of PMC are the respondents in this case.
Supreme Court, after which, petitioner Tanaji Gambhire had filed another review petition to re-assess the damage and increase the compensation up to Rs 500 crore. In addition to this, the bench had directed the developer to pay Rs 5 crore for contravening mandatory provision of several environment laws in carrying out the construction activities in addition to and exceeding limit of the available environment clearance and for not obtaining the consent from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB).
News reports added that earlier judgment was passed on September 27, 2016 in response to the Gambhire’s petition, which had been moved in a bid to ask the developer to demolish the illegal structures on account of several infractions of law including Environment Clearance Regulations, 2006, and interalia for payment of damages/environmental compensation. After hearing the parties, this tribunal declined to demolish the structures in question but had taken cognizance of its adverse impact on the environment.
The bench then observed that, though the respondent Goel Ganga has blatantly violated the conditions of EC, the total lack of supervision and enforcement at PMC level has resulted in the illegal activity. By taking the petitioner’s submissions into consideration, the bench modified the earlier order and increased the penalty total up to Rs 195 crores. Petitioner Gambhire had claimed that the developer had constructed 18 multi-storied buildings with 807 flats as against the environment department that had granted permission for 12 buildings with 552 flats as of April 4, 2008.
Atul Goel. Managing Director, Goel Ganga Developers (I) Pvt. Ltd over the National Green Tribunal (NGT) orders of increasing the compensation amount said, “ We are in disagreement with the view taken by NGT. We have always carried out construction in all our projects in accordance with law and permission granted to us, time to time and built our reputation on the same. In this case also we have obtained our EC in 2008 before starting the work and also have obtained the revised EC in 2017 itself.The work going on the site is as per the permissions received from PMC and Environment Department. NGT while deciding our case have referred to issues like definition of built up area and implication of carbon foot print. This issues are not pertaining to only our projects but has larger connotations effecting construction projects of the whole country. Hence on 7th July, 2017 Ministry of Environment and Forest Department, Government of India had to interfere clarifying the built up issue raised in our previous order dtd. 27th Sept., 2016. We feel the issue of carbon foot print raised in the order dtd. 8thJanuary, 2018 requires clarity in law and we alone can not be hold responsible for violation due to carbon foot print. We will take recourse to the remedy available in the law and fight the battle initiated by a person who has one point agenda of harassing us. We are confident that our plea will be heard by the Judiciary and we will come out absolutely clean in the same.”