The National Green Tribunal has refused permission to rafting camps operating from the banks of Ganga from Shivpuri to Rishikesh in Uttarakhand.
A bench headed by Justice U D Salvi slammed Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the Uttarakhandgovernment for not filing their replies in the case and directed them to file their response by August 7.
Taking note of Uttarakhand government’s March 31 statement that no new licences for camps would be issued, it also made it clear that permission for new rafting camps and even renewal would not be allowed for the time being till the next hearing.
It also directed the Environment Ministry to take a clear stand on the nature of the activities undertaken by the rafting camps.
During the hearing, Indian Association of Rafting Outfitters said that rafting activity cannot be treated as non-forest activity as per Forest (Conservation) Act.
The rafting association sought modification of March 31 order, allowing operation of the rafting camps on Ganga on the ground that the rafting season would commence shortly in September.
The green panel was hearing the plea of an NGO Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE) against the “unregulated” operation of rafting camps in Rishikesh.
The NGO had said that rafting camps were not only in violation of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 but also the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 as well as the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 as they were leading to pollution of Ganga by discharging effluent, throwing of solid waste directly and adversely affecting the ecological integrity of the river system.
The petition, filed through advocate Rahul Chowdhary, alleges that these camps, which are located and established as temporary sites, do not have adequate sewage and sanitation facilities and disturb the habitat of wild animals and “affect the peace, tranquillity and serenity of the forest area”.
“At the camp sites, the camp owners permit employees and the visitors to have food and alcohol. They leave empty bottles, cans, unconsumed food and waste including bones and filth in and around the camp site,” the plea had said.