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Banning any construction in Kasauli till further orders, the National Green Tribunal has quashed the permission given to Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) for building a 42-room hotel-cum-museum in the tourist town. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar set aside the consent granted to the project by Himachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board (HPPCB) and asked it to reconsider the permission after detailed verification of the site. The tribunal also held that there would be no further construction in Kasauli and constituted an eight-member special expert committee to study the impact of the project on the environment and ecology of Kasauli town.
The ban on construction both in civilian and cantonment areas will stay till the committee submits its report and tribunal passes any further order. "HPPCB shall reconsider the question of granting consent to establish and operate to project proponent expeditiously after detailed verification of the site, adequacy of the land available for the parking, setting up of sewage treatment plant...," the court said. It also asked HPPCB to consider municipal waste processing plan, rain water harvesting system, besides leaving enough open areas for vehicles coming to the hotel, keeping in view the terrain/topography of the area and the limited scope of widening of approach road to the proposed hotel. "Special Expert Committee shall make an assessment of the carrying capacity of the town of Kasauli in terms of tourist inflow, vehicular traffic keeping in view road infrastructure, the general scarcity of underground water, the availability of drinking water in the town and the overall impact on the air quality and bio-diversity of the area... "There shall be no further construction whatsoever in the town of Kasauli both the civilian area and the cantonment area till the time report of the Special Expert Committee is received and passing of the further order by this tribunal," it said. The directions came on the plea filed by Society for Preservation of Kasauli and its Environs (SPOKE) contending that such a huge commercial activity cannot be permitted due to the fragile ecology of Kasauli town. It had further alleged that Himachal Pradesh government was permitting HPTDC to carry out the construction in violation of the "Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) 1981, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) 1974, Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and Development Plan of Kasauli Planning area.