The National Green Tribunal has stayed all construction in the Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh.
A Bench of NGT headed by its chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar directed that no further construction shall be carried out in the Sanctuary till November 17.
The Tribunal was hearing a petition filed by D.K. Joshi, who is a member of the Monitoring Committee constituted by the Supreme Court in 1999 to supervise and manage drinking water projects, sewerage, drainage, solid waste management and Yamuna Action Plan within Agra.
Mr. Joshi said it was while fulfilling his duties as a member on the committee that he noticed large-scale illegal construction being carried out by Anand Engineering College in close vicinity of Keetham Lake which was created within the sanctuary for supplying drinking water to Agra.
His counsel Rahul Choudhary told the Tribunal that the college has been expanding its structure without complying with the conditions of the no-objection certificate granted by the State authorities.
The petitioner said the college has constructed a structure over 20,000 sq. metres, just 200 meters from the Keetham Lake and inside the wildlife sanctuary, and is polluting the water in the lake.
He said “the college purchased the land falling within the sanctuary area privately in 1998, after it was declared as sanctuary, and managed to procure permission for change of land use from the district administration of Agra in the 2002-03 in violation of the provision of the Forest (Conservation) Act and the Wildlife (Protection) Act. The petition claimed that the permission for the change of land use was granted illegally.”
“The College has not obtained any of the statutory clearances from the National Board for Wildlife and yet constructions have been in full swing since many years,” the petition said, adding that the Uttar Pradesh Environment Impact Assessment Authority granted environmental clearance to the college for expansion despite its past illegal conduct.
The Soor Sarovar Lake, more popularly known as Keetham Lake, was built in 1922 with an area of approximately 800 hectares.
The water body covers 400 hectares and the surrounding buffer zone 400 hectares. Keetham Lake was named Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, after the great blind poet Soordas, who lived nearby around 500 years ago. It is 17 km from Agra.
Globally threatened bird species such as lesser adjutant, greater spotted eagle, sarus crane, the state bird of Uttar Pradesh, are reported to come here. Among the near threatened species are black-necked stork, painted stork etc.
The Ministry of Environment & Forests has identified this wetland under the Wetland Conservation Programme. It has been recognised as an Important Bird Area (IBA) based on the presence of threatened bird species and congregatory water birds.