Mrunal Manmay Dash

A four-member team of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) arrived in Bhubaneswar on Saturday to inspect the construction activities on Sikharchandi hills being undertaken by the State government as part of its plan to transform the hills into a tourist spot.

The team has been constituted following the NGT's order on June 12 to look into the reports of violation of the Forest Act, 1980 by the Sikharchandi Hills project undertaken in Bhubaneswar. The project has been facing stiff opposition from locals who alleged that the construction activities would damage the bio-diversity.

Venting his anger, a local, Prafulla Samantray said, “The way the government has cut down trees on this hill is preposterous. They say, the hill will be used for drinking water supply. But why this hill? They have ample space for government offices, MLA and officers quarters. They should have eyed other places for water supply.”

"While we do not oppose water supply project, I am sure they will be using this space for business and sell this hill to corporate for peanuts,” he alleged.

“We will never allow them to enter this area and fell trees again. My demand is to demarcate Patia and Pathragadia villages and construct boundary walls,” said Jatni MLA Suresh Routray.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Tribunal issued orders while hearing a plea made by one Sachin Mohapatra alleging damage to the environment by construction works on the hilltop including earth moving, blasting of rocks and felling of trees.

“It does prima facie appear that the project may be in violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and may result in damage to the bio-diversity, particularly, rare and endangered medicinal and wild plant species and overall integrity of the hill. Thus, the intervention of this Tribunal may be necessary under section 15 of the NGT Act to prevent further damage and to restore the damage already done after independent verification of facts,” the Tribunal had said in its June 12 order.

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