Order of the National Green Tribunal regarding land use under Natural Conservation Zone (NCZ), 14/09/2020

Order of the National Green Tribunal in the matter of Legal Aid Committee, NGT Bar Association Vs MoEF & Others dated 14/09/2020.

The issue for consideration is safeguarding of land use falling under Natural Conservation Zone (NCZ) in terms of regional plan prepared by National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) under the provision of National Capital Region Planning Board Act, 1985. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in its report of September 9, 2020 recommended that Natural Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) should do land use and land cover mapping using LISS III data (resolution 23.5 m) on 1:50,000 scale for the two periods of 1999 and 2019. The classification scheme of the mapping should be selected in a manner that Natural Conservation Areas are explicitly mapped.

Due emphasis should be placed on ground truthing before the final output of the exercise is finalised. If required, NRSC may obtain thematic spatial data relevant for identifying natural conservation zones in NCRPB from the concerned organizations. The two comparable output data sets resulting from the same satellite data (sensor), scale and methodology would lead to a realistic assessment of status of Natural Conservation Zone i.e. how it has changed over the two time periods (1999 and 2019). The area under NCRPB has undergone change over a period of time in all the constituent states as more and more districts have been added to it. For the sake of uniformity, the committee was of the view that the present boundary defining NCRPB should be used for both the years i.e. 1999 and 2019.

Further, committee was of the view that Land Use Land Cover Mapping on 1:50,000 scale would serve the purpose of comparison of change in NCZ between 1999 and 2019 based on the identical set of outputs. However, to facilitate appropriate planning and regulations by the concerned State Governments, it would be desirable to have another Land Use Land Cover mapping of the area under NCRPB done on 1:10,000 scale for the year 2019 using high resolution satellite data of LISS-IV, CARTOSAT or other satellite/sensor which NRSC feels appropriate for the purpose. The above two mapping exercises should be taken up simultaneously as the two separate series of mapping by NRSC.

Counsel for the applicant has submitted that the scale of the map should be 1:4000 and not 1:10,000 so that all relevant details could be captured. It is also suggested that apart from the satellite mapping, physical ground truthing should also be undertaken.

The NGT directed the MoEF&CC to furnish a report by January 31, 2021 taking into consideration all the above aspects.