NGT ADMITS PIL AGAINST HIGHWAY EXPANSION

FLOODING: It is feared that the proposed bypass along the Western Express highway which passes through Benaulim will cause flooding due to land filling for the project

By Go team

The National Green Tribunal has accepted a petition opposing the expansion of the Western Bypass stretch on the grounds that Benaulim will be flooded. The petition has been filed by Royala Fernandes who is being represented by Advocate Nigel Da Costa Frias. The NGT has ordered the formation of a 10-member panel to review the expansion plan.

Grievance in this application is against violations of environmental norms in construction of balance stretch of Margao National Highway Western Bypass Road through the villages Seraulim to Benaulim, which is 2.75Km from wholesale fish market road Seraulim to Varca road (Ch. 31/900 to Ch. 34/650. The road is being constructed by the PWD, Goa through Respondent No. 13 – M/s M. Venkata Rao Infra Projects Pvt. Ltd., Caranzalem, Goa.

  1. Case set out in the application is that the Margao National Highway Western Bypass has already been constructed from Nuvem village upto Seraulim fish market through Khanzan lands/wetlands and agricultural lands. It is further to be constructed from wholesale fish market road Seraulim to Varca road (Ch. 31/900 to Ch.34/650), south
    Goa by destroying the large wetlands/khazan lands, agricultural lands and water bodies of the said villages. As of now, the project is fully on earthen embankments with one railway overbridge and 3 underpasses and 9 box culverts, passing through khazan lands, paddy fields, Water bodies, through villages of Verna, Nuvem, Seraulim, Benaulim, Navelim and Telaulim, besides a very small portion in Margao municipal area by illegally filling the said agricultural lands and water bodies and wetlands/khazan lands. The residents of Seraulim and Benaulim vehemently objected to the construction of the Margao National Highway Western Bypass on earthen embankments, through the villages Seraulim to Benaulim as the said construction would lead to water stagnation, resulting in flooding and inundation of houses located in and around the vicinity of villages Seraulim to Benaulim. Therefore, the residents of Seraulim and Benaulim demanded the roads to be constructed on stilts and also requested against access/service roads since the service roads are already in existence.
  2. Subsequently, Respondent nos. 1 and 2 – State of Goa and Ministry of Road Transport and Highways decided to undertake the Balance work of 2.75 km from wholesale fish market road Seraulim to Varca road (Ch. 31/900 to Ch.34/650) under new cost sharing arrangement of Respondent nos.1 and 2 in which share of Respondent no. 2 would be Rs.40.00 crore and rest amount of Rs.133.00 crores would be borne by respondent no. 1 as per the proposal sent to the Government of Goa vide No. PWD/SE-IX(NH) F- 9010/2019-20/106 dated 03.07.2019 for concurrence of the Central Government which is approved in principle. Respondent no. 1 decided to build the Balance work of 2.75 km from wholesale fish market road Seraulim to Varca road (Ch. 31/900 to Ch.34/650) on Culverts and earthen embankments and not on stilts.
  3. The Applicant has further stated that the said stretch of the Margao National Highway Western Bypass is also going through the flood plains of river Sal and the water catchment areas in Benaulim village near Vodlem Tollem (Lake) which is a water body. The Komla Tollem (water body) has been identified as a wetland by Respondent no.6 and the Vodlem Tollem, Dhakte/Diuler Tollem which are water bodies in the form of lakes and are yet to be notified as wetlands. The proposed NH bypass road is passing through property and divides the property into two unequal parts, major part on the right side and a small portion on the left. Polluted water from the Sal River has been diverted through this property by Respondent no. 7, Executive Engineer, PWD and discharged back to the Sal river downstream by cutting the bundh at two places. Villagers of Seraulim and Benaulim due to severe flooding and environmental degradation, through their complaints dated 19.11.2019 addressed to Respondent nos. 7, 8, and 9, PWD, Water Resources Department and Town and Country Planning Department, strongly objected to construction of Margao western bypass on earthen embankments and requested for the construction of the same on stilts. Since the construction of the said bypass on stilts would minimize the Environmental degradation and flooding during monsoons and would contribute to sustainable development.
  4. A joint inspection was conducted on 18.12.2019 and report dated 20.12.2019 was submitted by Director, Agriculture as follows:- “large scale land filling has been done for the construction of western bypass through survey nos. 140,132, 136,137, 134,135 100, 101 and 117 of Benaulim village, the sewerage water was diverted into survey no. 140, thereby causing water logging of sewerage which in turn effects the local Benaulim coconut trees, paddy crop and also the ground water table which then gets sipped into the wells thereby affecting the irrigation water of the farmers cultivating vegetables or any other crops/ plantation. In the other survey nos. as there is no outlet for water, the paddy fields get submerged and as a result it affects the cultivation of paddy in Kharif, paddy/pulses in rabi and vegetables in summer as a result of a lot of land remains fallow which in turn affects the profitability of farmers. If the bypass is built on stilts, there will be no water logging as there will be the continues flow of water which will flow the nearby river.”
  5. There is also a report by the Water Resources Department, Goa that sewerage/polluted water from River Sal has been diverted into survey no. 140 thereby causing water logging which in turn affects the local coconut trees, paddy crop and also the ground water table of Benaulim Village. Contaminated water then gets seeped into the wells, thereby affecting the drinking water supply and irrigation water of the farmers cultivating vegetables or any other crops/ plantation. The observations in the report are as follows:-
    “The observations made during the site visit are as under:
    • In regard to survey no.140, the area can be clearly classified as a low laying area compounded and protected by the bundh on all the sides. It is very close to the river sal separated by a bundh and as on badly affected since the construction of bridge across the sal river is under progress. The proposed NH bypass road is passing through this survey divides the property into two unequal parts, major part on the right side and a small portion on the left. Dirty water from the sal river is diverted through this property and discharged back to the sal river at downstream by cutting the bundh at two places as seen in the photograph. Since the water is highly polluted due to sewerage discharged at upstream of sal river, the damage to this land is almost unrecoverable or might take very long time.
    • Survey no.132 is a low la/ying paddy field and contain many ponds (water bodies) within it as seen in the enclosed plan.
    • Survey no.135,136 and 137 are low laying paddy fields.
    • Survey no. 134 is a low laYing field having two water bodies which are harvesting water for the paddy field. One of this pond will be filled up completely and the other will be affected partly on account of proposed NH bypass road.
    • Survey no. 100,101 and 117 are also low _Wing paddy fields having water body in survey no.117 which will be affected completely after construction of NH bypass road.
    • Off the 2.70 km length, 90% of the proposed NH bypass is passing through the property bearing nos. listed above of which the survey no.100,101,117,137 and 140 forms the border edge of the River sal
    • On immediate upstream at a distance of 150m there is a major water body called ToleBundh which is having two traditional outlests one is for providing water for agriculture and other is for discharging rain water during monsoon which is collected form catchment of Benaulim and Seraulim village panchayat through drainage network.(Enclosed village map).
    • A11 these survey nos forms the room for harvesting the water during the intense precipitation and control the flooding discharge is restricted into the Sal River.
    • The area under consideration is already affected due to development and thereby farmers has reducing the cultivation and also there are cases of evacuation recorded in this area on account of high floods.
    • As observed the work of construction of bridge on the sal river is under progress and the work is executed by hazardous manner by dumping and filing the entire river with earth and diverting the river by cutting and damaging the ancestors bundh without any intimation to this office. Recommendations and suggestions:-

• A proper drainage system needs to be provided to protect the area from flooding during monsoon.
• Proposed road being very close to the river sal, there is a scope for damaging the banks/bundh/drains connecting the river sal during the construction stage and thereby joint monitoring is required frequently to reinstate the damaged sites till the final stage of construction.
•As many water bodies(Ponds/Tanks) are going to be damaged permanently the alternate system needs to be replaced to keep alive and continue the agricultural activities.
• As the construction of road includes the filling of low laying areas, the possibilities of minimizing the filing area needs to be worked out by the PWD department by proposing the road on stilt as the alternate case by considering the long term damage to the agriculture.”

  1. According to the applicant, following adverse impact will take place by the construction of road in question:-
    “42………..xxx
    i. Due to land filling in the acquired land for construction of the bypass road, the adjoining areas comprising of survey nos. 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 112, 113, 120, 121 of Benaulim village and survey nos. 2,4,5,3 of Adsulim village which is a revenue village of CanaBenaulim Village Panchayat, which are agricultural low lying lands will be flooded due to the obstruction caused in the natural drainage, thus destroying the said agricultural lands that have been used for cultivation of Rabi and Kharif crops by the local famers during monsoons and winter season and in turn rendering the said agricultural lands unfit for cultivation which will cause great financial loss to the local farmers/villagers.
    ii. Destruction of the natural biodiversity, wetlands/khazan lands, agricultural lands being the natural flora and fauna of survey nos. mentioned in paragraph 13 above except for survey no. 119 of Benaulim village and Survey nos. 20/1,20/2, 20/3, 33/1 of Seraulim village and survey nos. 107/4, 147/19,182/19 of Margao city including survey nos. 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 112, 113, 120, 121 of Benaulim village and survey nos. 2,4,5,3 of Adsulim village which is the revenue village of Cana Benaulim.
    iii. Destruction of the mangroves of survey nos. mentioned in paragraph 13 above except for survey no. 119 of Benaulim village and Survey nos. 20/1,20/2, 20/3, 33/1 of Seraulim village and survey nos. 107/4, 147/19,182/19 of Margao city.
    iv. Destruction of the Adsulim Tollem(water body) by land filing in the village of Benaulim.
    v. Destruction of the biological resources such as plants, animals, microorganisms or parts thereof as mentioned in section 2(c) of The Biological Diversity Act and Rules of survey nos. mentioned in paragraph 13 above except for survey no. 119 of Benaulim village and Survey nos. 20/1,20/2, 20/3, 33/1 of Seraulim village and survey nos. 107/4, 147/19,182/19 of Margao city including survey nos. 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 112, 113, 120, 121 of Benaulim village and survey nos. 2,4,5,3 of Adsulim village which is the revenue village of Cana Benaulim.”
  2. We have heard learned Counsel for the appellant. Substance of the objection of the appellant is that the construction of the road in question should be consistent with the principle of sustainable development i.e adopting safeguards for protection of wetlands, water bodies and other environmental resources in the course of construction of the road.
  3. We find prima facie case for consideration having regard to the averments in the application. There can be no doubt that water bodies, wetlands, mangroves and other natural resources need to be protected. While construction of a road may be a necessity, such construction should not result in destruction of bio-diversity and other environmental resources, including water bodies and wetlands. Flood plains of river Sal also need to be protected. The studies referred to in the application support the need for such protection.
  4. Accordingly, we direct constitution of a ten member joint Committee comprising SEIAA, Goa, Goa State Biodiversity Board, Goa State Wetland Authority, PWD, Goa, Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA), District Magistrate, South Goa, Water Resources Department, State PCB, a nominee of National Wetland Authority and a nominee of PCCF (HoFF), Goa. The State PCB and SEIAA, Goa will be the nodal agency for coordination and compliance. A meeting of the Committee may be held within two weeks and after taking stock of the situation, plan of action may be prepared and executed. The Committee may also undertake visit to the site as early as possible. An action taken report may be filed within three months by e-mail at judicialngt@gov.in preferably in the form of searchable PDF/ OCR Support PDF and not in the form of Image PDF. The applicant is at liberty to make representation to the Committee through the nodal agency. List for further consideration on 10.11.2021. A copy of this order be forwarded to the SEIAA, Goa, Goa State Biodiversity Board, Goa State Wetland Authority, PWD, Goa, GCZMA, District Magistrate, South Goa, Water Resources Department, Goa, State PCB, National Wetland Authority and PCCF (HoFF), Goa by email for compliance. The applicant may serve set of papers on SEIAA, Goa, Goa State Biodiversity Board, Goa State Wetland Authority, PWD, Goa, GCZMA, District Magistrate, South Goa, Water Resources Department, Goa, State PCB, National Wetland Authority and PCCF (HoFF), Goa to facilitate compliance of the above order and file an affidavit of service within one week. Adarsh Kumar Goel, CP Sudhir Agarwal, JM M. Sathyanarayanan, JM Brijesh Sethi, JM Dr. Nagin Nanda, EM

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