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Supreme Court Green Signal to Shimla's 2041 Development Plan

On Thursday, the Supreme Court approved the Shimla Development Plan 2041. This plan is designed to control building activities in Shimla,

By groundreportdesk
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Supreme Court Green Signal to Shimla's 2041 Development Plan

On Thursday, the Supreme Court approved the Shimla Development Plan 2041. This plan is designed to control building activities in Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh. The court called the plan “sustainable” on the surface and emphasized the importance of balancing growth with environmental protection.

The new plan appears to address the issues previously raised by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). A group of judges, led by Justice Bhushan R Gavi, overturned the NGT’s earlier orders. They stated that the NGT did not have the authority to tell the state government and its agencies how to create a specific development plan.

People living in Shimla believe that the Supreme Court’s decision will lift the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) ban on building structures in Shimla that are more than two floors and attic floors. However, this has raised concerns among environmental activists.

The Town and Country Planning Department of Himachal Pradesh challenged the NGT’s November 2017 decision in the Supreme Court. The NGT had banned the construction of buildings taller than two floors and attic floors in the Shimla Planning Area.

On July 28, 2023, Supreme Court Justices BR Gavai and JB Pardiwala commented on the case, stating that there needs to be a balance between development and the environment.

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, defendant and environmental activist Yogendra Mohansen Gupta expressed disappointment. He told Down to Earth that they had hoped for a legal victory. He believes that Shimla is already facing destruction, and this decision will only exacerbate the problems.

Supreme Court approves Shimla’s Development Plan

The Supreme Court’s decision is a big win for the government led by Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu. They had approved the new plan, known as Vision 2041, in June 2023 and defended it strongly in court.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had given several instructions since 2017 about the Shimla development plan. They were concerned about unplanned development in various areas of Shimla, which was causing serious environmental issues.

The previous state government had approved a development plan for Shimla in February 2022. But the NGT stopped it in May 2022, saying it was illegal and didn’t follow their 2017 orders to control construction in Shimla.

In May 2023, the Supreme Court asked the state government to consider any objections to the draft development plan and then issue a final plan within six weeks. They also said that the draft plan couldn’t be used for a month after it was announced, and no new buildings could be built based on it.

In June 2023, the state government announced the new plan. It allowed construction in 17 green belts and in the central area where the NGT had banned building. The plan also included detailed rules about the size and height of buildings, parking, attics, and said that no trees could be cut down in green areas.

The development plan considered a total area of 22,450 hectares. This included the Shimla Municipal Corporation, special development authorities in Kufri, Shoghi, and Ghanahatti, and other areas in Shimla, as well as some villages.

What's in Shimla's 2041 Development Plan draft?

The Shimla Planning Area 2041 is a draft development plan for Shimla, published in February 2022. It states that Shimla urgently needs a plan to improve the city and its suburbs. The goal is to make the city and its surrounding areas look better.

The Town and Country Planning Department of Himachal Pradesh prepared this plan under the AMRUT sub-scheme of the Indian Government. The plan, which uses GIS, includes the Shimla Municipal Corporation, special areas like Kufri, Shoghi, and Ghanahatti, and some additional villages. It follows the Himachal Pradesh Town and Country Planning Act, 1977.

The draft plan states that town planning is not under the control of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). It also says that the NGT’s order about building height restrictions in Shimla will not apply in the future. This is part of an effort to address the challenges of urbanization.

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