Observing that the government prima facie might have ‘colluded’ with those who constructed structures violating norms in the protected zones of Tippagondanahalli (TG Halli) reservoir’s catchment area, the Karnataka High Court on Friday stayed the July 2014 notification that removed all protected zones declared through a notification issued in 2003.
Besides, the court also said the government’s action amounts to “disempowering” various enforcing agencies that have made efforts to check illegal activities in the protected zones following a series of the directions by the High Court.
A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice Budihal R.B. directed the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) to submit data of illegal structures in the TG Halli catchment area, and their impact on groundwater, river and the reservoir.
Advocate-General Ravivarma Kumar defended the July 24, 2014 notification by stating that it was necessary as 2003 notification had failed to consider the factual position, and hence now a fresh survey of the catchment area is under way. He also said that the river was not choked, and that all the ‘illegal’ structures existed prior to the 2003 notification.
The court responded by asking: “Are you not playing into the hands of those who violated norms? You are arguing against notification which was issued to protect river. What is happening in the State? Is it not a bankruptcy of administration?” the Bench questioned.
“Officials have failed in their duty of protecting environment by colluding with those who violated the law,” the Bench observed, while pointing out that a large number of constructions had come up only after 2003.
“You [government] choke your own river. Thereafter you spend Rs. 2,000 crore to bring to the city water from the Cauvery and the Krishna. Is this public service? Is this why the power is delegated to State government?,” the Bench observed while pointing out lapse on the part of the State to the right to life of lakhs of people who could be affected if the river and the reservoir are polluted.