The High Court of Karnataka on Wednesday directed the State government and the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to bring out — within a month — a comprehensive scheme to either restore 19 disappeared lakes, including those used for forming layouts by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), or create artificial lakes to compensate for the loss of the 19.
Expressing surprise over how the State government allowed public authorities to use lakes to put up constructions, a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Mohammad Nawaz issued the direction during the hearing on a PIL petition, filed in 2014, related to the issue of lack of maintaining stormwater drains, preventing the entry of sewage into SWDs and lakes in the city.
The Bench said that both the State government and the BBMP would have to come out with measures to restore 19 disappeared lakes, the list [see table] of which were submitted to the court by the BBMP in June. If it was not possible to restore these lakes, then the State government should discharge its constitutional obligation of maintaining and restoring lakes, by creating artificial lakes to compensate for the damage caused to the environment by the use of 19 lakes for various purposes.
As the government was yet to issue a final notification appointing CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Institute (NEERI) to study the city’s lakes and tanks and suggest measures for restoration, maintenance and rejuvenation of lakes and tanks as per the court’s June 18, 2019, direction, the Bench directed the government to place copies of orders appointing NEERI and the release of funds for study before the court within two weeks.
“If the State was conscious of its obligations, it could have created man-made lakes to compensate for the loss to the environment on account of the loss of lakes due to construction,” the court had observed in its June 18 order.
Meanwhile, the Bench said that it was not satisfied with the action taken to give wide publicity to mechanisms available for grievance redressal. It cautioned the BBMP that action would be initiated for not adhering to the court’s earlier order on creating a mechanism, including on WhatsApp, for grievance redressal and publicising the same.
The Bench also cautioned the State government that action under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, would be initiated if it failed to set up grievance redressal mechanism for receiving complaints as regards destruction, damage or encroachments on lakes in the city while declining to accept government’s contention that this was BBMP’s responsibility.
On noticing from the documents and photographs submitted on alleged encroachment of Subramanyapura lake by Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group, the Bench directed the authorities to stop all types of construction activities in the lake area.
Delay over SWM bylaw
Expressing displeasure over BBMP’s delay in publishing draft of Solid Waste Management (SWM) Bylaw and observing that BBMP has not come out with an explanation for not framing SWM bylaw within a year of the SWM Rules 2016 coming into force, the Bench set a deadline of two months for the BBMP to complete the process of both issuing final notification on SWM Bylaw and its enforcement.
“All that BBMP has done now is only framing the draft SWM Bye-law and BBMP council approving the draft on July 30, 2019. No outer limit for publishing draft and final notifications,” the Bench observed.