Shrishtinagar Housing Project in Guwahati's Ramsa Hills Receives Environmental Clearance amidst Accusations

Reported by

Mahesh Deka

Legal Data by

Anmol Gupta, Mukta Joshi

Edited by

Moushumi Sharma

Updated by

Published on

March 24, 2022

March 24, 2022

Updated on

March 24, 2022

Location of Conflict

Noonmati, Guwahati

Kamrup Metropolitan

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Township/Real Estate

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

250

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

101

ha

Starting Year

2010

State

Assam

Sector

Infrastructure

While the Assam government has continued massive crackdown operations across the state against ‘illegal encroachment’ and evicted hundreds of marginalised people rendering them homeless, a Kolkata-based firm has developed an integrated township project in Guwahati, covering 250 acres of land on the bank of the Brahmaputra river, allegedly flouting several rules, including the Forest Rights Act, 2006.  

The project, christened Shristinagar, is being executed by Shristi Housing Development Private Limited at Ramsa Hills in Guwahati’s Noonmati area. The township will include residential villas, multi-storeyed buildings, row houses, educational institutions, convention centres, hotels, theme parks, entertainment parks, water parks, hospitals, exhibition centres and a club house.

The Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) had approved the master plan of the project in 2010 but later suspended it in 2014 due to alleged violations of environmental and land laws. In March 2018, the District Magistrate, Kamrup Metropolitan District, issued orders directing Shristi Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (SIDCL) to stop all construction activities immediately. SIDCL challenged these orders before The Gauhati High Court. According to the Corporation, they had obtained consent from the Pollution Control Board of Assam in 2013 as well as the District Magistrate in 2015 with the caveat that there would be no hill cutting.

“We have all the necessary papers, and the project has been carried out as per norms. We have obtained due permission from the government. Only some NGOs are opposed to the project,” Nilkamal Bora, marketing head of Shristi Housing Development Private Limited, told LCW.

In a verdict on December 7, 2021, the high court noted that it did not find any reason to interfere with the implementation of the housing project. Regarding the issue of hill cutting, the court simply deferred the matter to the state government and closed the case.

According to the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), the project is located within a 10-kilometre radius of the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary. The construction of all mega industrial and residential complexes remained banned within this distance of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries until the environment ministry scrapped the norm in August 2019.

At a press conference in Guwahati on July 1, 2014, former KMSS President Akhil Gogoi had alleged that SIDCL went ahead with construction work without any authorisation letter. It also stated that the project has not received the environmental clearance nor the consent letter from the State Pollution Control Board, permission from the Ground Water Authority and approval of the National Board for Wild Life. “On August 10, 2009, Riverine Housing Private Limited obtained the mutation order for construction, and since then the work has been going on. All documents pertaining to construction are being held back by Shristi Housing Private Limited,” KMSS said in a press statement. The project received Environmental Clearance on July 7, 2021.

According to a press statement issued by the KMSS, 'the Shillong-based forest and environment office of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change is bound to submit a six-monthly compliance report on developmental projects. But all routine exercises are being conveniently ignored, and Shristi Housing is having a field day in the absence of any check'. The KMSS also alleged that SIDCL was supposed to build 1,028 houses for the economically weaker section and had entered into an agreement with the GMDA but that no such houses have been constructed yet. It also claimed that the state government had altered the map of Guwahati’s eco-sensitive zones.

LCW could not verify the allegations of the KMSS as the GMDA is tight-lipped about the issue and refused to share official documents.  

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Opposition against environmental degradation

Demand to retain/protect access to common land/resources

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Region Classification

Urban

Type of Land

Common and Private

Type of Common Land

Forest and Non-Forest, Non-Forest (Other than Grazing Land)

Total investment involved (in Crores):

3000

Type of investment:

Cost of Project

Year of Estimation

2013

Page Number In Investment Document:

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Legislations/Policies Involved

Section 2(f) [Hill land defined as land covered by hills and includes local areas not reserved as forest or sanctuary]; Section 3 [No person to conduct any activity which results in damage to portion of hill lands]; Section 4 [State government to declare any hill land as designated area]; Section 15 [State government to have the power to order stoppage of activities causing damage to any hill land even which are not declared as Designated Area]
Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006
Item 8, Schedule [Prior environmental clearance required for construction, townships and area development projects]
Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
Section 3(a) read with Section 4 [Vests in traditional forest dwellers the right to hold and live on forestland]
Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006
Section 3(a) read with Section 4 [Vests in traditional forest dwellers the right to hold and live on forestland]
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Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community?

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Violation of environmental laws

Non-rehabilitation of displaced people

Forced evictions/dispossession of land

Lack of legal protection over land rights

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Disposed

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

No

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

The Gauhati High Court

Case Number

PIL No.38/2019, WP(C) No.7397/2018

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

In March 2018, the District Magistrate, Kamrup Metropolitan District, issued orders directing Shristi Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited to stop all construction activities in Shrishtinagar immediately. These orders were challenged by the Development Corporation in WP (C) No.7397/2018 before The Gauhati High Court. According to the Corporation, they had obtained consent from the Pollution Control Board of Assam in 2013 as well as the District Magistrate in 2015 with the caveat that there would be no hill cutting. Based on alleged violation by the Corporation of the aforesaid norms, PIL no. 38/2019 was also filed before the high court. Both the petitions were disposed of through a common judgment dated December 7, 2021. The court noted that a joint meeting was held between representatives of the corporation and the state government in September 2018. On appreciation of the documents at hand, the court noted that the Chief Conservator of Forest, Assam, conducted a survey in February 2020 and found that the concerned land did not qualify as a “deemed forest”. Further, the Deputy Commissioner, Kamrup (Metropolitan), was supposed to ascertain if there had been any earth cutting activity. In the absence of any factual finding, the court did not respond further on this issue and, instead, emphasised the validity of the no-objection certificate granted by the Pollution Control Board. The Court, thus, did not find any reason to interfere with the implementation of the project. Regarding the issue of hill cutting, the court simply deferred the matter to the state government and closed both the cases.

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

No items found.

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

Reported Details of the Violation:

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Nature of Protest

Campaigns (grassroots organisations/press releases/media)

Media-based activism/alternative media

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority, Guwahati Development Department, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Chang

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

LCW reached out to Kausar Jamil Hilaly, CEO of the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority, but he refused to comment.

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Nilkamal Borah, marketing head of Shristi Housing Development Private Limited, told LCW: “We have all the necessary papers, and the project has been carried out as per norms. We have obtained due permission from the government. Only some NGOs are opposed to the project."

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Shristi Housing Development Private Limited

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Nilkamal Borah, marketing head of Shristi Housing Development Private Limited, told LCW: “We have all the necessary papers, and the project has been carried out as per norms. We have obtained due permission from the government. Only some NGOs are opposed to the project."

Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:

Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:
A model concept of Shrishtinagar Guwahati

A model concept of Shrishtinagar Guwahati

Image Credit:  

Shrishti Guwahati

A model concept of Shrishtinagar Guwahati

Image Credit:  

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Reviewed By

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