The National Green Tribunal (NGT), in a hearing held on April 12 2017, has warned of passing restraining directions against the State of Karnataka, if discharge of untreated sewage into the Bellandur Lake in Bengaluru is not stopped immediately. The NGT also directed the Chief Secretary of the state to be present before the Tribunal during the next hearing.
The Tribunal also pulled up Karnataka Lake Catchment Development Authority (KLCDA) for allowing the situation to reach a stage where lake catches fire. The State government, KLCDA and other authorities have been directed to apprise the court of the measures taken after the lake fire incident on February 16, 2017. Meanwhile Karnataka State Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (KSIIDC) has been allowed to implead in the case.
Namma Bengaluru Foundation reacts
Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF), initiated by Rajyasabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar has been working with citizens to save Bengaluru lakes, and has helped them to take many of these fights to court. NBF has been actively involved in Bellandur lake, trying to come up with rejuvenation plans for the lake.
A press note from Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF) says: “The Tribunal was unhappy with the way Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLCDA) handled the lake fire issue. KLCDA along with other authorities have been directed to apprise the court about the measures taken post lake fire incident (16 Feb 2017) to prevent such accidents in future. The tribunal also pulled up KLCDA and observed that it is the only lake development authority in the world which is causing fire in the lakes.”
Sridhar Pabbisetty, the CEO of NBF says in the press note, “It is imperative that Government ensures critical infrastructure is put in place before uncontrolled approvals are given for large development projects. We want KLCDA to no longer allow rampant abuse of our lakes that are in custody of various government agencies.” Pabbisetty says NGT’s observations further strengthens their resolve to fight for the protection and rejuvenation of the city’s lakes and water bodies.
The struggle of Bellandur lake
Bellandur lake, Bengaluru’s infamous lake known for sewage, garbage, froth, fire and encroachments, hits headlines often for one of these reasons. The NGT, for sometime now, has been trying to put systems in place to ensure Bellandur lake ecosystem is not swallowed by human greed.
Earlier in another case related to the special economic zone (SEZ) coming up on the lake bed, the NGT quashed the environmental sanctions given to Mantri Developers and Coremind Software and Services Private Limited. In a landmark judgment, the NGT came up with new buffer zone definitions for all water bodies and drains, a directive to the state government to notify the wetlands in and around Bengaluru and a directive to survey and demolish all illegal structures around Bellandur lake. A fine amounting to almost 129 Crore was levied on the two erring builders.
The builders filed a Civil Appeal in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, while staying the payment of fines pending hearing of the appeal, declined to stay any other portion of the judgment. Meanwhile, the two builders were joined at the Supreme Court by many other builders who claim that they will be put to financial losses if they observe the new buffer norms.
Following the fire on Bellandur lake, the NGT initiated a suo-motu case, asking the government of Karnataka to respond with the actions taken to prevent sewage from entering the lake, and future plans. Along with the case, On February 22nd 2017, the NGT brought up its earlier order on Bellandur lake (the Forward Foundation v/s Government of Karnataka case related to Mantri Developers/ Coremind Software & Services Pvt Ltd) and asked the government why it should not be held in contempt.
Enviro clearances for nearby structures
On February 23rd, the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) cancelled the environmental clearances accorded to as many as 28 builders, including both Mantri Techzone Pvt Ltd and Coremind Software and Services Pvt Ltd. The formal cancellation of environment clearance also leads to the automatic cancellation of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) clearance accorded to both entities, as the KSPCB clearance accorded to the Bellandur SEZ project is valid only until the date of the Environment Clearance obtained and becomes invalid if the Environment Clearance is annulled or withdrawn.
Meanwhile, Sterling Infinia, an apartment development next to the SEZ project put out a notice informing that its project was accorded environmental clearance on March 20, 2017. The same structure had been denied environment clearance in August 2016, as the SEIAA found through village maps that a canal from Agara lake leading to Bellandur lake ran through the project site. About 3 guntas of canal land was granted to the Sterling Developers through a government order dated November 23, 2013 by the Siddaramaiah regime itself, states a Times of India report.
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