Meghalaya HC halts all construction activities around Lake Umiam

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SHILLONG, October 20: The Meghalaya High Court on Thursday ordered that all construction activities around Lake Umiam be suspended until the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) and the State Pollution Control Council Meghalaya (MSPCB) submit a more detailed report indicating whether it would be eligible to allow the completion of such construction works.

On hearing a PIL on the cleanliness of Lake Umiam, the divisional bench said, “Further construction activities around Lake Umiam should be suspended until a more detailed report in terms of this order is obtained from council. of the district and the PCB. ”

The order came after a report filed by the KHADC revealed that the findings of the joint inspection conducted with the PCB (September 5-6) where seven establishments constructed buildings within 300m of the level of Highest Flood (HFL) of Lake Umiam.

Several buildings are under construction and are not yet finished.

The seven include: M/s Hills Cafe has built a restaurant within 280m of the HFL; M/s Megha Automative LLP has set up a car service shop, and again within 280m of the HFL; The M/s Moon View Cafe, intended to be a restaurant, was set up less than 80 m from the HFL; M/s SL Rokland Motors LLP has set up a car maintenance workshop within 300m of the HFL, M/s Ever Banalari Guest House and Restaurant is carrying out the construction of a guest house and restaurant within 240m of the HFL and M/s Highland Toyota has set up an automotive service shop and showroom within 280m of the HFL. Finally, the M/s Oriental Star Luxury Hotel and Resort has built a building less than 260m from the HFL.

According to the KHADC, some form of authorization has been obtained by each of the aforementioned entities or persons controlling them from the local authorities. In some cases permissions were also obtained from the PCB, but there does not appear to have been any law in force regarding the extent of the construction, the nature of the construction or any limitations or regulations in this regard.

In view of this, the bench ordered the KHADC and the PCB to inspect each of the establishments to determine whether it would be permissible or desirable to allow construction to be completed, given the ultimate nature of their use and the proximity to the HFL of Lake Umiam.

“Even if an establishment is found to have done the construction with some form of permission, strict conditions must be imposed to ensure that the cleanliness of the water below or the aesthetics of the surroundings do not be unaffected,” the bench said while affirming. “To this end, the District Council, in conjunction with the PCB, will indicate the extent of further construction which may be permitted after reviewing the construction plans in respect of establishments where construction has not yet been completed.”

In the case of completed projects, the bench said it will be open to the KHADC and the PCB to indicate whether any part of the construction should be demolished in the public interest or what strict conditions must be met for recovery or to continue. activity in the establishment concerned.

Authorities should bear in mind that the closer an establishment is to water or the HFL, the higher the standards should be, she said while adding that the exercise to be carried out by the district council and the PCB will be guided by the general public. the interest and the intransigent need to ensure the cleanliness of water.

The bench also added that the beauty of the view should be kept in mind rather than the pecuniary or commercial interest of the establishment concerned.

Regarding the several metal containers located at the lake’s longest vantage point, which are intended to be managed as commercial kiosks or food-selling establishments, the bench ordered the departments of KHADC, PCB, of health and tourism to consider the advisability of the kiosks and preferably remove them so that the pristine beauty is not disturbed and there is less risk of polluting the area, even if the availability snacks or refreshments may increase attendance.

He said a well-thought-out designated area for this purpose can be identified with appropriate facilities to deal with the rubbish and effluences that may be generated and so that there is no possibility of these seeping in. in the water below.

Meanwhile, the inspection report also referred to several commercial stations in and around the area, including at least one that is run by the state or a state agency.

The bench was of the opinion that similar rules will apply to the six resorts, namely Orchid Lake Resort, Ri Shat Sngi Orchid Resort, La Nicholas Dei Da Kine Resort, Roinam Retreat in Umbir, Ri Kynjai-Serenity by the Lake in Umbir and Cafe Umbir in Umbir.

“However, since these stations have been in operation for a considerable period of time and it may not be fair or equitable to bring them down, despite their failure to meet standards, the District Council and the PCBs will impose strict conditions of how garbage, sewage and other effluents from these resorts can be properly disposed of with scientific methods of treating them so that neither the water nor the immediate environment are affected,” he ordered.

The bench also expressed hope that the KHADC will apply the same rules to its own guest house which is apparently at a vantage point overlooking the lake.

He further ordered that “no future construction in or around Umiam Lake, at least within 1000m of the HFL, will be permitted until strict standards for such construction and effluent treatment are put in place. , after leaving a non-construction buffer zone of about 500m from the HFL, by the competent authorities.

The next hearing will be on November 15.

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Richard V. Johnson