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Saturday, January 28, 2023

NGT Imposes a Fine of Rs 500 crore on Karnataka Government

The NGT fined the Karnataka government for the huge damage it caused to Bengaluru's Chandapura Lake

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Raju Vernekar
Raju Vernekar
Raju Vermekar is a senior Mumbai-based journalist who have worked with many daily newspapers. Raju contributes on versatile topics.

INDIA. Mumbai: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed a fine of Rs. 500 crore on the Karnataka government earlier this week for the huge damage caused to Bengaluru’s Chandapura Lake and its failure to maintain and restore the lake.

In its order dated October 10, a bench comprising Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Sudhir Agarwal and expert members Prof. A Senthil Veil and Dr. Afroz Ahmad, in its order dated October 10, observed that the damage to the Chandapura lake was clearly attributable to the inaction of state authorities.

The bench was dealing with Original Application No. 324/2021 in a suo moto complaint registered in response to a media report, related to the damage caused to the lake.

The bench listed the application for further consideration on February 22, 2023, and directed the Chief Secretary, Karnataka, to remain present in person by video conference on that date.

The tribunal had constituted a seven-member joint committee to look into issues related to buffer zone violations and solid waste management guidelines concerning the lake.

“There are illegal encroachments and construction activities, unchecked violations of environmental norms by the industries, a failure to protect and regulate buffer zones and catchment areas of the lake and to control pollution,” the NGT said.

In the absence of precise data, the bench fixed the compensation at Rs. 500 crore and directed the Karnataka government to deposit the amount within one month in a ring-fenced account with the State Pollution Control Board (PCB) under the care of the Chief Secretary, Karnataka.

The buffer zone of the lake was encroached upon and waste was being dumped into the ancient lake, which was choked by encroachments, effluents, and waste. The lake is in an area of 7.2 acres in Heelalige Village and 17.27 acres in Chandpura Town.

From the total 24.27 acres, nearly two acres of the lake have been encroached upon by construction activities. The buffer zone has been encroached upon by a government hospital and local shops.

The fence around the lake has been broken. Garbage is littered along its boundaries. The NGT observed that there is no sewage treatment plant (STP) due to which untreated sewage is discharged into the lake.

Sources of pollution include Jigani-Bommasandra industrial area and discharge of effluents into the lake, in violation of the Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) Policy of the Government of India.

Under the ZLD water management system, no untreated water can be released into the lake. There are around 195 “red” category industries in the Jigani-Bommasandra area, which include drug manufacturing companies, electroplating, power coating, pickling, heat treatment, galvanizing, casting, lead-acid battery manufacturing, used oil reprocessing, lead smelting, and chemical industries.

Water tanker lorries supply water directly from bore wells next to the lake to the consumers in Bengaluru for domestic needs. The water packaging industries in Bommasandra supply water to the entire city.

The sewage-laden storm water drains flowing between the lakes in Anekal (suburban Bengaluru) also pass through many farms and vegetable plots where farmers grow produce and supply it to the local market.

There is no buffer zone between the Jigani–Bommasandra industrial area and the adjoining residential areas.

These industries are supposed to hand over the effluents to the common effluent treatment plant (CETP) after pretreatment, which is not done.

The matter was earlier considered on November 26, 2021 and March 29, this year in light of the reports of the joint committee comprising CPCB, State PCB, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and other agencies, and the District Magistrate, Bengaluru.

The bench observed that although the Chief Secretary had issued certain directions, there was no meaningful compliance in the form of restoration of the damage caused, no accountability was fixed, and no compensation was recovered from the polluting industries.

The ongoing environmental and public health damage was a clear violation of the “Public Trust Doctrine,” and the government should be held accountable for it.

Advocate Rajat Jonathan Shaw represented the Karnataka government as an advocate. Amit Singh Chauhan represented the Central Pollution Control Board.

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  • Raju Vernekar
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    Raju Vermekar is a senior Mumbai-based journalist who have worked with many daily newspapers. Raju contributes on versatile topics.

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