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Meghalaya High Court rules out to halt all construction near Umiam Lake

Meghalaya High Court rules out to halt all construction near Umiam Lake

Meghalaya High Court on October 21 directed all construction activities around the Umiam Lake to be kept in abeyance till the KHADC and the MSPCB come up with a more detailed report on whether it would be permissible to allow their completion

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Meghalaya High Court Meghalaya High Court

The Meghalaya High Court on October 21 directed all construction activities around the Umiam Lake to be kept in abeyance till the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) and the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB) come up with a more detailed report on whether it would be permissible to allow their completion.

The HC, which was hearing a PIL, passed the order after a report filed by the KHADC revealed that the findings of the joint inspection conducted with the PCB (on September 5-6) found seven establishments had constructed buildings within 300 m of the highest flood level (HFL) of the lake.

“No future construction in or around the Umiam Lake, at least within 1000m from the HFL, will be allowed before strict norms for such construction and treatment of effluence are put in place, after leaving a no-construction buffer zone of about 500m from the HFL, by the appropriate authorities,” it directed.

Several of these structures, including projected guest homes and restaurants, are now under development but have not yet been finished.

According to the KHADC report, clearance from the local authorities was obtained for the building. 

Permissions had also been received from the PCB in certain situations, but there did not appear to be any law on the length of the construction, the nature of the construction, or any limit or regulation in such respect, it stated.

The bench also added that even if an establishment is discovered to have built the structure with some type of approval, strict requirements must be enforced to guarantee that the purity of the water below or the beauty of the surroundings is not negatively affected.

“For such purpose, the district council in conjunction with the PCB will indicate the extent of further construction that may be allowed after going through the construction plans in respect of those establishments where the construction has not yet been completed.”

In the case of completed projects, the KHADC and the PCB will be free to indicate whether any part of the structure must be demolished in the larger public interest or what strict conditions must be met before taking up or continuing the activity at the relevant establishment, according to the bench.

It instructed that the authorities keep in mind that the closer an institution is to the water or the HFL, the tougher the standards must be. 

The bench hoped that KHADC would apply the same guidelines to its own guesthouse, which is said to be located on a vantage point overlooking the lake. The next hearing is scheduled for November 15.