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The Green Monitors

The Supreme Court Monitoring Committee keeps a tab on Doon Valley's environment

Dr Nitin Pandey


Supreme Court Monitoring Committee, Dehradun
At work, MC Ghildial

Not many of us know that in 1988, the Supreme Court of India set up a mechanism to monitor the environmental rehabilitation of Doon Valley. From 1955 -1985 the environment of Doon Valley was substantially degraded by over 100 limestone mines which were operating in the Mussorie hills. In 1985 after a sustained campaign by Avdesh Kaushal of the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra the Supreme Court imposed a blanket ban on mining in the hills. It then set up the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee or SCMC with a mission to pursue the “restoration of natural normalcy and monitoring the environmental issues of Doon Valley”. Headed by the Secretary of Environment and Forests in the Central government, this 9 member SCMC has since then been meeting every 3 months and sending recommendations to the governmental agencies to prevent environmental degradation in Dehradun. It also sends an annual report to the Supreme Court on its activities. It’s most recent success has been the sealing of buildings built on river bed by GRD Academy in Rajpur, 3 yrs ago.

Speaking about SCMC, its Secretary, Mr. MC Ghildial said that the Committee does not have its own infrastructure and it takes action whenever any issue is brought to its attention by media reports or citizens. “Recently a complaint was received regarding the cutting of trees at Parade Ground. We have written to MDDA, MNA & DM Dehradun, not to proceed until they examine the whole issue afresh and to the best of my knowledge the work there has stopped. The Citizens of Doon must be vigilant, act as our eyes and ears and contact our Office in FRI or call us at 2759376 in case they notice any violation of environmental norms.”

The biggest problem the SCMC faces, according to Mrs. Florence Pandhi, a Citizen Member of the Committee, is “the tardiness of various government agencies. Since we are a supervisory body, we do not have executive powers of summoning people or passing orders, therefore we depend on the local government for action. This takes time” she added. According to Mr. Ghildial, this will change when the National Green Tribunal Bill 2009, which has been introduced in the Lok Sabha, is passed by the Parliament. “It proposes to set up Green Tribunals with powers to summon order and punish people in civil cases involving the environment” he explained. “Hopefully the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee will be merged into this region’s Green Tribunal, which will be much more powerful.” As per the present draft of the bill, even courts will not be able to interfere in their functioning.

The biggest environmental threat Dehradun faces, according to Mr. Ghildial, is from its rapidly expanding population. From 1991 to 2001, Dehradun’s population increased by 52% much higher than the national average of 36% for urban areas (Census of India, 2001). “This phenomenal growth has put pressure on all the civic amenities, literally throwing them out of gear, leading to pollution of all sorts. From garbage to plastic & hospital waste, the city’s infrastructure is simply not equipped to handle it.” says Mr. Ghildial. “Encroachments on river beds, skyrocketing land prices and illegal cutting of forest trees are all a direct result of this” he says further.

Elaborating on the issue further, Mrs. Florence points out that the Master Plan of Dehradun which should have been implemented in 2002, has not even been approved in 2009. The Zonal Plans are still not ready. “The government is functioning on an ad hoc day to day basis, leading to chaos and pollution” she says. On a personal note, she adds “Ideally, since the infrastructure of our town is not equipped for such a large population, the best way to handle it is to move the capital away. But that is a political decision, on which the state leaders must take a call”.

Summing up, Mrs. Florence says “It is now up to the citizens to maintain their vigil and ensure that there is no further degradation of the sparse greenery of our city and no land is taken from the Parade Ground”

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