Mizoram govt instructs verification of highway construction over alleged environmental violations
Mizo social activist, Vanramchhuangi alias Ruafela Nu had launched her indefinite silent sit-in protest  in front of the state Environment, Forest and Climate Change Department’s office in Aizawl.

Aizawl: The Mizoram government on Monday instructed five divisional forest officers (DFOs) to conduct verification wherever national highways are being widened or expanded across the state.

The move comes in the wake of a silent protest launched by a well-known Mizo social activist over the alleged environmental violations at construction sites by the National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL). 

The Centrally-owned company is currently executing widening works of four national highways- NH -09 (Seling – Zokhawthar), NH-102B (Keifang -Manipur), NH-302 (Lunglei – Tlabung) and NH-54 (Aizawl – Tuipang) inside Mizoram.

Mizoram Principal Chief Forest Conservator Jitendra Kumar said the division forest officers of Aizawl, Lunglei, Thenzawl, Tlabung and Champhai have been instructed to conduct site verification within their respective jurisdiction to ascertain if there are violations of the Mizoram (Forest) Act, 1955 and the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, by the NHIDCL.

In case there is any violation, works might be stopped immediately as per provisions of the relevant act or rules, he said, adding that the DFOs were asked to submit their findings effectively by Tuesday. 

Kumar said the state government is keen on protecting the environment and making green forests. The government is also keen on working with NGOs and other stakeholders to protect the environment, he said. 

On May 25, the state environment, forest and climate change department had served a show-cause notice to the NHIDCL to explain the alleged environmental damage within a week, he said. The company is yet to respond, he added.

On Friday, well-known Mizo social activist Vanramchhuangi alias Ruafela Nu had launched her indefinite silent sit-in protest in front of the state Environment, Forest and Climate Change Department’s office in Aizawl in protest against the alleged environmental violations.

The social activist has demanded a stay order on widening works of the four National Highways being undertaken by the NHIDCL. The 62-year-old activist, however, suspended her indefinite strike on Monday after an assurance from the state government that immediate action would be taken.

“I have suspended my silent protest after the chief forest conservator assured me of immediate action against the environmental violations by NHIDCL. I will closely look into the matter and necessary measures would be taken if there is no positive result,” she told EastMojo. 

Ruafela Nu has alleged that rivers and forest lands are being destroyed indiscriminately due to the construction or widening of National Highways across Mizoram over the past 3 years. 

Earlier on Friday, Ruatfela Nu also submitted a memorandum to the chief forest conservator demanding a stay order on development works  on National highways currently executed by NHIDCL. Among others, she also demanded that the NHIDCL should restore the damage it has done to the environment and only developmental projects with reliable EIA done through a credible agency should be given clearances.

In her memorandum, Ruatfela Nu alleged that the NHIDCL has completely disregarded and violated Environment Management Plan (EMP) within the framework of the EIA and also social considerations while disposing of their spoil soils by callously shoving them down the constructed slope, wiping away all biodiversity which are in the way of the disposed spoil soils.

“The worst affected being the rivers and smaller tributaries which are completely covered by these muck and 99.9% of our seasonal and perennial rivers are not visible anymore,” she said.

She also alleged that the enormous siltation which has destroyed agricultural lands and polluted the state’s main water subsistence is a result of disregard and negligence of environmental laws and regulations bythe  NHIDCL and all governmental stakeholders involved at every level.

However, an official of the environment, forest and climate change department said that an environmental clearance is not required in connection with widening of existing national highways, which are shorter than 100 km. 

He said that the national highways, the widening work of which are currently undertaken by the NHIDCL in Mizoram, are shorter than 100 km.

Also read: Mizoram logs 7 fresh Covid cases, tally at 2,28,298

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