Green tribunal ‘ban’ on a number of Hauz Khas restaurants

NEW DELHI: If you were planning a weekend lunch or dinner at your favourite restaurant in Hauz Khas village, you may have to consider other options. National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered all restaurants running without environmental permission to be closed till the next hearing on Tuesday. Most of them don’t have clearance from Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and were found to be discharging untreated waste water into the sewers and also drawing groundwater. None of them has a water connection.

The restaurants, more than 40, told a TOI team that they had no idea they needed DPCC’s approval, and some of them are getting ready to install effluent treatment plants (ETPs). It was only two-three weeks back that they got a notice from DPCC, obviously after NGT took up the case. Regular visitors at the village say thousands of restaurants around the city don’t have ETPs but are functioning without any hindrance. The officials have been lax and now the city stands to lose one of the few places for hanging out.

DPCC had inspected 34 restaurants recently and served them show-cause notices. Nineteen submitted replies while 15 never responded. The NGT bench took a serious note of the environmental impact of the mushrooming eating joints in the village. “These restaurants have not only been operated without proper clearance as per law but are also discharging effluents (and) drawing potable water, apart from causing a nuisance and environmental hazard…,” said the bench.

The bench also expressed its displeasure over DPCC failing to take any action against the restaurants. “They demanded an explanation from DPCC for the delay. They have only issued show-cause notices but taken no stern action. The bench has summoned the member-secretary of DPCC at the next hearing and asked for an explanation for the lapses,” said Sumedha Dua, the advocate who is arguing the case.

The bench wants the member-secretary to inform them for how long the restaurants have been functioning, whether they have got the necessary approval for discharging effluents and whether these restaurants are drawing potable water from the ground and have secured permission from the competent authority. It wants to know its plans for solid waste management in these restaurants. It has also asked DPCC to state whether there are more such restaurants operating in the area.

“Considering the seriousness of the issue of the health hazard that is being caused, we have no hesitation to hold that the balance of convenience in granting certain interim orders is in the interest of the public. Accordingly, we hereby direct the closure of all the restaurants situated in Hauz Khas area which are running without obtaining proper permission from the appropriate authorities till the next date of hearing,” said the bench. It also added that there shall also be an order of injunction against anyone from starting any new restaurant in the area.

DPCC member-secretary Sandeep Mishra told TOI it is mandatory for eateries to take DPCC’s consent as the parameters defined by the ministry of environment and forests for the waste water discharged by eateries are monitored by them. “We welcome the court’s order. It will act as a deterrent for other restaurants and eateries that are functioning without ETPs. It’s very important for all restaurants to comply and we on our part will implement the court’s order in letter and spirit,” he said.

Petitioner Pankaj Sharma, who is an environmental activist, welcomed the order. “Hauz Khas Village lies in the ecosensitive zone of Southern Ridge which provides a much-needed ecological support not just to the area but to the entire city. The area is also under ASI protection. However, the illegal restaurants which came up due to connivance of local authorities has posed a serious challenge to it and I am sure that today’s decision will set a precedence for the future. We welcome today’s landmark decision of National Green Tribunal on Hauz Khas Village which will send a strong message for maintaining environmental sustainability of Delhi,” he said.

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