Illegal banquet halls galore in Delhi

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has directed forfeiture of performance guarantee of Rs 5 crore deposited by the Delhi government, expressing dissatisfaction with its compliance report on illegal banquet halls, farmhouses and hotels.

Noting that the report furnished by the Delhi government on illegal banquets and restaurants operating in Mahipalpur and Rajokri was “not exhaustive”, the NGT said it does not properly address the issues raised by it.

“Direction with regard to the installation of CCTV cameras at appropriate locations to ensure compliance of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 and sewage discharge is not shown to have been complied. There is also no comprehensive report about the compliance of waste management rules,” the tribunal said.

The green panel noted that no compensation is shown to have been assessed for the illegal withdrawal of groundwater for swimming pools except saying that unlicensed swimming pools were closed.

It also noted that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), which was asked to draw up an action plan on the issue, has not filed any report on illegal banquet and only the joint secretary has appeared.

“Only explanation given is that he is deputed to Parliament. If it was so, an appropriate affidavit or application should have been filed. MoEF should have filed the report on illegal banquet halls, as directed. Let the same be done now before the next date. We make it clear that if there is further default by the joint secretary concerned, the tribunal will have no other option except to take coercive measures personally against the erring Joint Secretary,” the NGT said.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said that policy for enforcement of environmental norms for places in a densely populated city like Delhi where social gathering takes place is necessary on account of there already being a high level of air pollution. Such gatherings should not result in further deterioration of the situation.

“It is well known that air pollution is responsible for a large number of deaths and diseases in Delhi. The nature of diseases caused by air pollution includes respiratory diseases like asthma, heart problem, eye irritation etc, the dependence on private vehicles continue to create tremendous pressure on road space parking and congestion. Till this problem is satisfactorily tackled, most stringent precautions are required to regulate social events with the participation of a large number of people,” it said.

The NGT said that policymaking on such vital issue is expected to be in the light of expert studies based on air and water samples of the area, and with the involvement of experts in environment, urban planning or other relevant subjects.

It clarified that this cannot be a “casual exercise” as happened in the present case where neither any data is referred to nor any information on the subject is shown.

“We hope that a serious exercise will now be carried out in the light of the above observation and relevant experts will be associated in the process. The relevant studies on the subject may be taken into account. It will also be appropriate that some eminent citizens are also involved,” the tribunal said.

The matter is posted for hearing on 19 September.

The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Westend Green Farms Society alleging that illegal banquets and marriage halls operating in Mahipalpur and Rajokri near Indira Gandhi International Airport were causing vehicular congestion and environmental pollution.

The applicant, a society of 170 residential farmhouses at Rajokri, is aggrieved by a violation of environmental laws by illegal commercial establishments operating as restaurants, hotels, motels or banquets, along the National Highway No. 8 Expressway (Delhi-Jaipur), in the vicinity of the petitioner.

It said the activities of the said establishments cause massive traffic congestion on account of unauthorised parking of vehicles and huge gatherings for weddings or other functions.