Save the Hills of Maharashtra

Save the Hills of Maharashtra

0 have signed. Let’s get to 5,000!


Shri Aaditya Uddhav Thackeray
Hon. Minister for Environment
Government of Maharashtra

Shri Eknath Shinde
Hon. Minister - Urban Development and Public Works
Government of Maharashtra

Dear Sirs,

Reference:
    1. Judgment and order passed by Hon. National Green Tribunal, Western Zone bench at Pune in OA No. 4/2014 (Aam Aadmi Lokmanch vs State of Maharashtra)
    2. Maharashtra State GR No. TPS 1817/.. Dt 14/11/2017 giving effect to the judgment and order at Ref. No.1, giving protection to citizens and hills & hill-slopes by ordering of “no-construction” zone up to 100 ft of end of hill slope

Subject: State Govt to immediately file review petition in Supreme Court against the Supreme Court order dated 14/07/2020 which has set aside the above GR.

    1. We write this as citizens concerned with the rampant destruction of hills and hill slopes across Maharashtra. The hills are irreplaceable natural resources which provide oxygen, host biodiversity. Hills are home to innumerable endemic flora & fauna. The hills are of immense geological and hydro geological significance as natural groundwater recharge zones; their aquifers provide essential lifeline of groundwater to villages, towns and cities of Maharashtra.

    2. However, rampant construction, encroachment and hill-cutting have resulted in severe ecological damage and caused many disasters. Malin, near Bhimashankar, Dist. Pune in 2014, where 151 citizens lost their lives; Ghatkopar in Mumbai in 2000 where over 67 citizens lost their lives to landslide; and many such instances have been happening with alarming regularity across Maharashtra, year after year. What little was done to prevent the disasters, has now been reversed by the latest order of the Hon. Supreme Court.

    3. On 6th June 2013, an incident in Shindewadi, in Katraj Ghat, Pune caused the death of two innocent citizens – a young mother and her daughter were swept away to a horrific end. The cause of the incident was the careless extensive hill cutting at the site of the accident. Based on a petition filed by a Pune based NGO, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in its order dated 19/5/2015 had directed the State Government to pass appropriate orders to local bodies to not allow permission for any construction upon a zone of 100 feet from the end of hill slope.

    4. The NGT order and the GR issued by Maharashtra Govt. were challenged in the High Court and Supreme Court by parties with pure commercial interests particularly in the construction sector. The Supreme Court on 14th July 2020 passed an order setting aside the aforementioned NGT order and the Mah State GR.

    5. We draw your attention to the Hon. Supreme Court order and the observations mentioned in para 90 @ page 73. The order establishes that the Maharashtra Government failed to provide expert reports and adequate reasoning to support their GR issued in Nov 2017.

It is appalling that the State of Maharashtra did not present facts and evidence of the numerous environmental accidents of humongous proportions which happen every year, nor of the human and animal lives lost, nor of the property damaged due to hill/hill-slope destruction.

    6. How could the ecological significance of hills as aquifers, hills as biodiversity parks, hills as forests, hills as oxygen producing lungs, hills as carbon sequestering natural climate change mitigation resources be completely ignored? How could the Maharashtra Government conveniently forget Malin, Ghaktopkar, Shindewadi and the numerous such man-made and hence avoidable disasters? Why none of the above was even deemed necessary to be presented during the proceedings before the Hon. Supreme Court?

    7. Apart from Town-Planning, numerous other government agencies such as Public Works, Highways, Forests, Rural Development and Irrigation are constantly engaged in various infrastructure projects across the state of Maharashtra and many regions are hilly or extremely hilly. It is not as if the factors causing large-scale tragedies have now been completely obviated. On the other hand, the setting aside of the aforementioned NGT order and the State GR intended to protect citizens and the Environment, brings back the perils of hill-slope destruction. 

We earnestly appeal to the Maharashtra State Government to file a review petition immediately in the Supreme Court and present facts and reports and highlight the dire necessity to protect our citizens and our hills which the State Govt as custodian of the natural wealth is duty-bound to do, according to law.

For Save Hills of Maharashtra movement

Various NGOs of Maharashtra

Attachments

    1. NGT Order Dt 19/5/2015
    2. State Govt GR Dt 14/11/2017
    3. Supreme Court Order Dt 14/7/2020

Annexures - Media
    1. https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-india-s-worst-landslides-and-why-these-might-not-be-the-last-ones-2006836
    2. https://www.outlookindia.com/newswire/story/54-killed-in-landslides-floods-in-maharashtra/312955
    3. https://www.freepressjournal.in/cmcm/on-this-day-in-history-july-12-2000-landslide-caused-by-heavy-rains-kills-67-people-in-mumbais-ghatkopar-area
    4. https://www.moneylife.in/article/what-caused-the-malin-tragedy-was-callousness-of-netas-and-babus/38264.html
    5. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/pune-news-july-30-2019-5862406/
    6. https://punemirror.indiatimes.com/pune/cover-story/shindewadi-tragedy-committee-completes-probe-blames-rathods/articleshow/31268171.cms

Annexures - Research

    1. Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto University, Japan https://www.jsnds.org/jnds/36_1_2.pdf
    2. Cente for Disaster Management, Mussoorie https://tinyurl.com/yyky58mn

CC - Hon Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Shri Uddhav Thackeray

CC - Hon MP Rajya Sabha- Smt Vandana Chavan, Pune