New Delhi: Rejecting GVK Group firm Alaknanda Hydro Power Company's contention that the 2013 cloudburst and floods in Uttarakhand was an "act of god", the National Green Tribunal has directed it to pay a compensation of Rs 9.26 crore to the persons affected by the disaster.
The green panel held the company liable for lack of proper care in storing muck from a construction project, which allowed the material to flow during the floods to the Srinagar town of the Pauri Garhwal district in June 2013.
It directed Alaknanda Hydro Power to deposit Rs 9,26,42,795 within 30 days as compensation with the Emergency Relief Fund Authority, which should be paid to the victims of the disaster.
"An act of god provides no excuse unless it is so unexpected that no reasonable human foresight could be presumed to anticipate the occurrence, having regard to the conditions of time and place known to be prevailing....We, therefore, reject the plea of the respondent no. 1 that the damage caused to the residential area was the result of 'Act of God'," a bench headed by Justice U D Salvi said.
While one per cent of the amount is to be remitted to the Registrar of the NGT under the provisions of the 2011 National Green Tribunal Rules, the remaining amount is to be distributed by the District Magistrate of Pauri after verifying the claims.
"The human habitation was affected due to the silt and the muck. Going by the geochemical analysis, the muck that was found was about 30 per cent. This certainly is a footprint of the involvement of the respondent no 1 (company) in the occurrence resulting in damage caused," the bench said.
The NGT held that it is undisputed that 2013 floods were due to cloudburst in the upper reaches of river Alaknanda near Kedarnath, unlike the floods in 1894 and 1970 as per a report published by Ministry of Environment and Forests.
"However, it was within the knowledge of Alaknanda Hydro Power Co Ltd that the project is situated in geologically sensitive area of Himalayas, where cloudburst is not a rare phenomena and, though the environment clearance did not mandate plan for muck disposal, MoEF has sounded an alarm as regards the muck disposal vide direction dated June 30, 2011.
"Having regard to these known conditions, human foresight could have reasonably anticipated that laxity in taking timely protective measures such as slope dressing, terracing, toe walls covering the top soil at the permanent muck disposal sites would prove disastrous to the environment, particularly to the human beings who are the components of environment," the bench, which also comprised expert member A R Yousuf, said....