New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has issued bailable warrants against Odisha Environment Minister and the ASI chief over non-appearance of anyone on their behalf to respond on the issue of environmental pollution around the famous Sri Jagannath Temple in Puri.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also issued a bailable warrant against Principal Secretary of Odisha government`s Department of Forest and Environment as no one has appeared on the official`s behalf either.
"Respondent No 3 (Principal Secretary, Department of Forest and Environment, Government of Odisha), 4 (Minister in charge of Environment and Forest) and 7 (Director General, ASI) have been served notice, but nobody appears on their behalf despite service.
"The presence of these respondents is essential before the Tribunal for the purpose of fully and finally adjudicating the issues involved in the matter. Consequently, we issue bailable warrants against all these respondents for a sum of Rs 20,000 each to the satisfaction of the arresting officer," the bench said and fixed the matter for August 23.
The order came on a plea by an environmental activist Subhas Datta who has challenged the practice of the temple`s open-air kitchen of using firewood to cook food for the devotees on the grounds that use of wood creates environmental hazard by spreading smoke and causes deforestation.
He has sought that an alternative like LPG be used and if such a change is opposed, then an electrostatic precipitator (ESP) be installed to remove the smoke generated by the kitchen, which is said to have a capacity of cooking for one lakh people.
Datta has also sought directions to the Odisha government to declare a one km radius around the temple as air pollution control area where massive burning of firewood should be totally restricted or regulated.
In his petition, Datta has also sought relocation of the `Swar Dwar`, the cremation ground at Puri, saying the ash generated by burning of bodies allegedly blows into the nearby open-air kitchen of the temple.
If relocation of the cremation ground is not feasible, then he has sought setting up of an electric crematorium or installing a roof over the burning ghat and fixing of a chimney to release the smoke into a reasonable height.
Apart from that, Datta has also sought directions to the state to "not allow any restrictive business or commercial activities within the sea-beach area or Coastal Regulation Zone" of Puri and to "demolish all unauthorised construction there at the earliest".
He has alleged that instead of planting trees on the beach to stabilise the sand dunes of the beach, the area is being taken over by commercial establishments like hotels which could give rise to environmental problems as Puri is located in a High Damage Risk Zone.
He has alleged that commercial establishments are "encroaching upon the sea-beach" in "total violation of coastal regulations".
He has also sought implementation of "measures to stop all discharge of untreated sewage and drainage water into the sea", especially close to the beach, as lakhs of tourists visit the town to bathe in the sea water.