A sum of Rs 3.11 crore for the repair of 622 damaged cow sheds and financial assistance of Rs 50,000 each to 71 families, who lost their belongings in the disaster, was also disbursed by the Chief Minister.
As the entire Himachal Pradesh is grappling with landslides, flash floods, and sinking of roads largely due to violation of norms in vertical hill cutting and construction over slopes, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has stepped in a similar case in Palampur district Kangra.
The NGT has taken cognizance of the cutting of hills with the help of JCB machines being undertaken in the hilly area near Saurabh Van Vihar of Palampur by a private party engaged in constructing a hotel or a resort allegedly without any authority from the State Pollution Control Board or the authorities concerned.
The bench headed by the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Sheo Kumar Singh, observed that the activities and cutting of hills and trees had played havoc with nature which could result in a landslide in the area. The order added that the “dumping of debris in the forest land has taken place and the entire area has not been demarcated and, thus, there is an encroachment on forest land.”
“There are also constructions in the hill slopes above 45 degrees which have been prohibited in Himachal Pradesh,” said the NGT.
The bench commented: “The issue raised in this application is the reckless and unscientific cutting of hills near Saurabh Van Vihar on the outskirts of Palampur, Himachal Pradesh. Nestled in the foothills of the Dhauladhar range, the town of Palampur in Himachal Pradesh is the ideal retreat for individuals seeking an escape from the ills of city life. However, like other more famous hill stations, Palampur too is in danger of falling prey to human activity due to man-environment conflict.”
It added: “One major issue at the present moment is the pollution of the town and its surrounding areas. Deforestation is another major problem. Deodar trees are slowly disappearing without any systematic plantation work. Moreover, uncontrolled mining and extraction of sand, stone, and gravel threaten important roads and housing colonies. There is no clear-cut collection and disposal mechanism of municipal organic waste leading to an unhygienic scenario in Palampur.”
“Palampur is the microcosm of the degradation that is taking place,” the NGT pointed out.
The NGT, in its order dated August 18, has formed a committee comprising Collector, Palampur, Divisional Forest Officer, Palampur; and a representative from Himachal Pradesh Pollution Control Board (HPPCB) that will visit the place and submit the facts and action taken report within six weeks.