After BDA Officer, NGT Penalises Chandaka DFO; Raps Odisha Govt For Wasting Court’s Time
Bhubaneswar: The National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) eastern zone bench, Kolkata, has imposed a fine of Rs 2,500 on Chandaka Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) for delay in submission of information on alleged degradation of Sikharchandi hills, a part of Chandaka Wildlife Division, on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar.
“We fail to understand as to why the documents were not promptly filed by the State Respondents on affidavit earlier although this case has been pending since June 12, 2023, and there is also a stay order operating in the case,” the bench said on Monday after additional government advocate of Odisha, SK Nayak, sought more time to bring documents received from Forest Department on record through affidavit.
The tribunal had earlier refused to rescind a ‘keep in abeyance’ order it had issued on Water Corporation of Odisha (WATCO)’s elevated water storage tank project at Sikharchandi hill. The construction activities were suspended over possible damage to the biodiversity and endangered plant species in the ecosensitive hill area.
The two-member bench also observed that the Odisha government was itself delaying the matter and not prosecuting the case sincerely and conscientiously. “We, therefore, impose a personal cost of Rs 2,500 on the Forest Officer, Chandaka Wildlife Forest, which shall be deposited by him with the Registrar, National Green Tribunal, Eastern Zone Bench, Kolkata within one week and only after deposit of the cost, this court will allow fresh affidavit to be filed by the Forest Department,” the order said.
The bench has posted the matter to October 12 for next hearing.
The petitioner, Sachin Mohapatra, has also appealed to NGT for its intervention for declaring the hill a biodiversity heritage site. Sarpanchs of Chandaka and Daruthenga have already moved the chairman of State Biodiversity Board Odisha for the same.
In July, the tribunal had imposed Rs 500 fine on Rabindra Kumar Sahoo, presently the secretary of Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA), for filing an affidavit in a “casual and irresponsible manner”.
In his affidavit, Sahoo stated that BDA had planned to redevelop Shikharchandi Temple and its peripheral region and Rs 30 crore has been sanctioned for the project by the state government. The hill is outside of the ecosensitive zone of the wildlife sanctuary, it added.