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NGT bans constructions in Shimla, along roads across Himachal

Anjul Tomar | New Delhi |

The National Green Tribunal on Thursday banned all new construction activities in the heart of Shimla with immediate effect. It also rapped the Himachal Pradesh government for allowing `reckless’ construction in the state.
“There should be no construction of any kind such as residential, commercial or of institutions like schools and colleges in the core, green and forest areas of Shimla,” the court said in its order.
The core area of the state capital is the heart of Shimla and includes Mall Road, Lower Bazaar, Middle Bazaar, Jakhu, Boileauganj and other places surrounded by Cart Road. 
The order, however, allows reconstruction of old residential structures in a dilapidated condition with the permission of the concerned department.
Outside of core and green areas, the NGT court has allowed construction strictly by the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act and the municipal laws. These allow construction of only up to two-and-a-half storeys in Shimla and its surroundings.
However, if the plan has been submitted and construction work with deviations has been completed prior to this judgment, the green court order allows it to be regularised at Rs 5,000 per square feet for residential buildings and Rs 10,000 per square feet for commercial buildings. 
Construction activity without permission in the forest or green area will attract an environmental compensation of at least Rs 5 lakh per violation.
The NGT has also banned construction within three metres of roads and the national highways in the entire state.
Coming down heavily against the state government, the green court said that it was the failure of the concerned authorities to stop haphazard construction that has made Shimla vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters.
The tribunal also asked the state to prepare an action plan within three months to provide retrofitting to public and private buildings against earthquakes.
It has asked the state to provide infrastructure like roads, water and sewerage in Sanjauli and other congested areas of Shimla including Lower Bazaar. 
Reacting to the order, Vivek Sood, an old Shimla resident, said those who have done unauthorised construction against building bylaws will gain at the expense of those who have bought land legally but are yet to construct.
In such cases, the government should acquire their land and pay compensation, he demanded.
The court observed that Shimla district falls in the severe landslide hazard risk category.
“Development involving reckless and excessive constructions and indiscriminate felling of trees is the root cause of a spurt in landslides,” it said.