Failing to Protect Bengaluru Lakes from Contamination
The Principal Bench, New Delhi has issued a warning to the Additional Chief Secretary (Urban Development), Karnataka, Commissioner, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Commissioner, Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA), Chairman, BWSSB and the Member Secretary, State Pollution Control Board (PCB) after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) surveyed that there is failing to Protect Bengaluru Lakes from Contamination.
A huge amount of untreated sewage and effluents are discharged in water bodies at Bengaluru – Bellandur lake, Agara lake and Varthur lake from residential, commercial and industrial buildings which has led to severe pollution of these water bodies. The water bodies are not only polluted by untreated sewage but also due to the inefficient management of solid waste in violation to the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, particularly Section 25.
The Bellandur lake is said to be 130 years old spreading across 9,000 acres of land. It is highly polluted and the toxic foam covering the water surface caught fire in May 2015 and burned for hours. It caught fire again in January 2018. The lake which was a habitat for several species of birds, reptiles and aquatic life is now severely affected by pollution. The groundwater recharge has also been adversely affected due to this. The dumping of waste has resulted in a foul stench around the lake. The authorities have failed to take the essential and mandatory steps to prevent the flow of untreated sewage into the water bodies which is the main cause of foam formation in the lake. Neither has the lake been de-silted regularly nor have there been any measures to prevent the dumping of municipal solid waste.
Current Issue (Failing to Protect Bengaluru Lakes from Contamination)
Several orders have been passed by the National Green Tribunal in the last five years but the concerned authorities have paid no heed to the orders passed for protecting three highly contaminated lakes in Bengaluru city. Noting the negligence of the State of Karnataka the bench led by Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said, “Suffice it to say that the State of Karnataka has shown lack of concern on such a sensitive matter in spite of stringent orders of this Tribunal which is not conducive to the rule of law.”
The tribunal has issued numerous directions regarding the contamination of the water bodies in Bengaluru. The tribunal has noted that the State has failed to take necessary steps on
‘Precautionary Principle’, such as plantation around the Tank of the lake, fencing of the lake, providing screens in major storm drains to prevent carry-over waste, construction of adequate STPs (Sewage Treatment Plants) and other equipment.
The lack of fencing around lakes has resulted in encroachments which add to the pollution of the lakes affecting the ecologically sensitive area. The tribunal noted that CCTV cameras and watchtowers have not been installed. Marshals and watchmen have also not been deployed.
In terms of the Order passed by the National Green Tribunal in case anyone is found to be dumping C&D waste or debris into the lake or its buffer zone, a penalty of Rs. 5 Lakhs will be imposed for each offence.
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ConclusionIn relation to the non-compliance by the State of Karnataka and its authorities, the bench said,
“Having regard to the significance of the issue involved and repeated failures of the State and its Authorities, we direct the Additional Chief Secretary (Urban Development), Karnataka, Commissioner, BBMP, Commissioner, BDA, Chairman, BWSSB and the Member Secretary, State PCB to remain present on the next date with the compliance reports and explanation why coercive action including civil imprisonment be not ordered for the violations of the orders of this Tribunal.”
The tribunal has made several recommendations for Strict Compliance of environmental laws for apartments/ townships or commercial establishments which includes that when STP is required as per the EC/ Consent, but the facility has not constructed the STP despite generating sewage, Rs. 10 Lakhs per month from the date of completion certificate or date of completion has to be paid as environmental damage. Where the number of flats/ units actually constructed is more than the number of flats/units disclosed to KSPCB while obtaining Consent, Rs. 1 Lakh per unit per month from the date of construction until the grant of fresh requisite consent as environmental damage. Where STP is not functioning or parameters are not being met or untreated sewage is being bypassed from the STP or being otherwise diverted, Rs. 5 lakhs per default will have to be paid as environmental damage.
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