HC permits NIT process to execute Loktak Inland Waterways, Eco-tourism project

A PIL was filed by the Loktak Development Authority (LDA) for initiating the NIT process to implement Loktak Inland Waterways Improvement project.

 

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Ramalingam Sudhakar and Justice A.Bimol of the High Court has given its permission to proceed with the Notice Inviting Tender (NIT) process for Loktak Inland Waterways Improvement project. In the same judgment order, the division bench has also permitted Loktak Lake Eco-tourism project NIT to proceed.

The division issued the order in response to the public interest litigation (PIL) and the Judgment was passed on the condition that all the necessary statutory clearance will be obtained from all departments concerned, more particularly, from theMinistry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India. 

The High Court of Manipur has taken up the PIL on the direction of the Supreme Court considering the fact that Loktak Lake is Ramsar site.  Accordingly, the court had clamped restriction on implementation of new development projects by different government departments and Manipur State Wetlands Authority in and around Loktak Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the Northeast.

The court appointed advocates Kh Samarjit and Julius Riamei as the amicus Curiae for the case while advocate general N Kumarjit and advocates P Tamphamani and Moses Pao represented the respondents.

Accordingly, the court had made it clear that different government departments and the Manipur State Wetlands Authority cannot initiate new development projects and works in and around the lake without its approval.

During the proceedings, the court directed to submit the Integrated Management Plan for Wise Use of Loktak Lake, Manipur (2020-2025) following the rules of Ramsar Convention.

Accordingly, the Integrated Management Plan for Wise Use of Loktak Lake, Manipur (2020-2025) has been prepared and submitted in July, 2020. And in the month of September, the Directorate of Environment and Climate Change, Govt. of Manipur forwarded this Integrated Plan for the Wise Use of Loktak Lake to the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India for review and endorsement.

The review and endorsement of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India is awaited.

The court heard submission from Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India for the applicant assisted by Lenin Hijam, additional AG as well as N Kumarjit, advocate general of the state and Kh Samarjit and Julius Riamei, amicus curiae, on October 12.

Tushar Mehta appearing for the state pleaded that the Loktak Inland Waterways Improvement Project is funded by the Ministry of Shipping, (IWT Section), Govt. of India, in October 2019. The principal approval to the Government of Manipur’s project, namely, Loktak Inland Waterways Improvement Project” under Central Sector Scheme has been approved. It is at the stage that the Court wanted clearance from all the authorities including the Wise Use plan and as a result, the Integrated Management Plan for Wise Use of Loktak Lake, Manipur (2020-2025) has been submitted. But the amount is likely to lapse if the NIT is not allowed to proceed further.

He further stated that the clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India will be taken for the project in issue. Besides all other statutory requirements will be scrupulously followed, required permission, clearances will be taken before the project is taken up for implementation. However, the NIT should be allowed to proceed subject to the condition of getting all necessary clearances, he pleaded. 

At the same time, he also submitted that Loktak Lake eco-tourism project funds will also lapse if the NIT is not permitted subject to the same conditions. The NITs in both the cases have not been taken up only because of the High Court’s order restraining the authority from proceeding without the necessary clearances.

He assured the court in both the issues the clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India as well as other Ministry concerned will be obtained before the project is implemented. 

Considering the submission, the court said, “subject to the condition submitted by solicitor general, the reason for permitting the state authorities, namely, Loktak Development Authority and the tourism department to proceed with the NIT can be considered as reasonable request because they have complied with the basic requirement of providing the Integrated Management Plan of Wise Use of Loktak Lake (2020-2025)”.

It observed that the management plan of wise use will enable the union government and other authorities to assess the nature of the project and guide the two departments of the state government in a proper manner. On pragmatic assessment of the issue, necessary guidelines for Wise Use of Loktak Lake in relation to Loktak Inland Waterways Improvement Project as well as Eco Tourism project will have to be issued by the various departments of the Union of India.

The court with hope and trust on the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change will take all necessary action on the merits of the proposal keeping in mind the environment and ecology of the Ramsar site, and permits the NIT to proceed, the court said. 

 

First Published:Oct. 22, 2020, 11:44 p.m.

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