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NGT seeks action against rampant river rafting camps on Ganga Banks

New Delhi: Concerning the protection and conservation of river Ganga, the National Green Tribunal has sought explanations from the central government and the Uttarakhand state government on the issue of "unregulated" operation of rafting camps on the banks of river Ganga between Shivpuri and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand.

However, the Uttarakhand government has ensured the tribunal that it will not grant any more permission for setting-up of any new camp till the next hearing on May 8.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar was on Wednesday hearing a plea filed by non-governmental organisation Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE), which claimed that the licences for river rafting camps were being awarded "indiscriminately" by the authorities on forest land without appreciating their carrying capacity.

The petitioner has claimed that their functioning is polluting the Ganga and has sought the clouser of these rafting camps. The tribunal issued notices to the environment ministry, ministry of water resources and Uttarakhand government.

"These camps are not only in violation of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 but also the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 as well as the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 as it is leading to pollution of Ganga by discharging effluent, throwing of solid waste directly and adversely affecting the ecological integrity of the river system," the petition said.

SAFE has alleged that these camps, which are located and established as temporary sites, do not have adequate sewage and sanitation facilities, disturb the habitat of wild animals and "affect the peace, tranquility and serenity of the forest area".

"At the camp sites, the camp owners permit employees and the visitors to have food and alcohol. They leave empty bottles, cans, unconsumed food and waste including bones and filth in and around the camp site," the petition said.

Unregulated rafting activity in Shivpuri-Rishikesh stretch of the Ganga in Uttarakhand has been a matter of concern for environmentalists. A few years back, Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) had, in its report, described rafting camps in the Ganga as posing significant threat to the environment.

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