HC rejects govt. plea seeking transfer of PIL on lakes to NGT

The High Court of Karnataka on Saturday rejected the State government’s plea for transferring to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) a PIL petition, through which the court is monitoring measures taken by the government and its authorities to protect, rejuvenate and maintain lakes in the State.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum passed the order while observing that the NGT is only dealing with the issue of restoration of waterbodies whereas the High Court has been considering not only restoration but also removal of encroachments, rejuvenation, etc., of lakes, and maintenance of stormwater drains. “Nothing on record to show that the NGT is dealing with the same issues...,” the Bench said.

The government’s plea for transferring the PIL comes after the High Court since the last one year had issued a series of orders, which include staying of handing over of lakes to private corporate entities under the Corporation Social Responsibility (CSR) scheme for rejuvenation and maintenance of lakes.

The PIL before the High Court was filed by Citizen Action Group in 2014 and the proceedings before the NGT commenced in 2015.

Meanwhile, the Bench directed the government to respond to allegations that recommendations, made in the 2011 report of Justice N.K. Patil Committee and accepted by the High Court in 2012, were violated by the government while entrusting six lakes to private corporates for rejuvenation and maintenance.

In his application, Leo F. Saldanha of Environment Support Group, an NGO, alleged that visit to six lakes revealed that in some lakes, Sewerage Treatment Plants were permitted in no-construction zones and several other constructions that were prohibited as per the committee’s recommendations were allowed to be undertaken by the corporate entities.

Hebbal lake in Mysuru was handed over to Infosys Foundation in 2016 for rejuvenation through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The government had signed similar MoUs between 2017 and 2020 with Bharat Electronics Ltd., Biocon Foundation, Titan Company Ltd., Say Trees Environmental Trust, and CMR University for rejuvenating and maintaining Doddabommasandra, Hebbagodi, Veerasandra, Nallurahalli, and Chagalatti lakes in Bengaluru city, respectively.

The government, in its response to the court’s earlier query said that it had conducted workshops inviting private corporate entities to look after lakes through CSR schemes by making a provision in the Karnataka Tank Conservation & Development Authority Act, 2014, in this regard after CSR scheme was made a norm under the Companies Act, 2013. However, the Bench noted that the response submitted by the government did not state that a transparent process was adopted to select private corporate entities to rejuvenate and maintain lakes.

‘Extent of lake areas misreported’

The State government has “misreported” the actual extent of Hebbal and Nagawara lakes in Bengaluru in its 2019 notifications when compared to the original area of these lakes, claimed Mr. Saldanha in his statement filed in the High Court.

For Hebbal lake, the extent notified in the December 2019 government notification is 92.26 acres, whereas the actual extent in the original land records is 192.19 acres. For Nagawara lake, the extent notified December 2019 is 56.17 acres, whereas the actual extent in the original land records is 103.03 acres, he alleged, while referring to the value of lands around Hebbal and Nagawara areas.

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 5:30:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/hc-rejects-govt-plea-seeking-transfer-of-pil-on-lakes-to-ngt/article33589583.ece

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