City Kemp News
The National Green Tribunal on Thursday has flayed an expert committee over its inspection report on the ecologically sensitive area on the land between Bellandur and Agara lakes and directed all the members of the panel to visit the site afresh. Besides this, the green panel directed all the members of the committee to start proceedings in the presence of Dr D K Agrawal and Prof A R Yousuf, expert members of the tribunal.
The bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar criticised the committee report stating “The High Power Committee primarily did not file the report within the stipulated time and now when the report has been filed before the tribunal, we have no hesitation in observing that the report does not comply with the directions of the tribunal in its true spirit and substance. The report is not comprehensive on major aspects and the committee has not mentioned the factors relevant for determination of environmental compensation.”
As the National Green Tribunal (NGT) lambasted the expert committee report, two members of the tribunal – DK Agrawal and AR Yousuf, rushed on Friday to inspect the project site being developed by Mantri Techzone Pvt. Ltd. and Core Mind Software and Services Pvt. Ltd. between Bellandur and Agara lakes.
The tribunal has entrusted them with the responsibility of overseeing the work of the eight-member expert committee that was constituted in May. The committee comprises an Advisor in MoEF dealing with the subject of wetlands, CEO of Karnataka Lake Development Authority, Chief Town Planner of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Chairman of State Environment Appraisal Committee (SEAC) which had recommended environment clearance to the projects; a scientist (ecology) from Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore; a former Advisor to MoEF and a senior officer from National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee. This committee was constituted to make a survey of the ecologically sensitive area on the land between Bellandur and Agara lakes.
It may be recalled that the green panel had imposed an hefty fine on two companies Mantri Techzone Pvt Ltd and Core Mind Software and Services Pvt Ltd of Rs 117.35 crore and Rs 22.5 crore respectively as damages for carrying out illegal construction and degrading the environment.
Criticising the committee findings, the bench said, “The report is not comprehensive on major aspects. The stand taken by the Lake Development Authority of Bangalore before us is different than the one on the basis of which now the report has been submitted. The committee has also not mentioned the factors relevant for determination of environmental compensation.” It also noted that while the inspection report mentioned that there was unauthorized encroachment of nearly 3 acres and 10 guntas, however, the builders were in possession of “practically” 72 acres of land, including the wetlands and have also built boundary walls and other constructions.
The tribunal also said that the catchment area and inter-connectivity of the lakes had been mentioned in the report but without any “comments and recommendations” as to what steps are required to be taken and what is the extent of damage done by these builders to the ecology and environment. “The report does not state categorically as to which of the conditions of the environmental clearance order have been complied with and which have not been complied with. It is completely silent on the consequences and remedial measures on that behalf,” the bench said.
The green panel has directed the expert committee to inform it about various aspects, including — existing or proposed projects of STP/ETP, source of water for construction activity, conditions of EC with regard to buffer zone and air pollution, clearances granted in relation of air and water pollution and status of ‘rajakaluves’ (storm water drains).
Here is the excerpts of the order:
The judgment passed by the Tribunal was in the nature of preliminary decree and final judgment/ decree on behalf of that was passed after receiving report of the High Powered Committee. The High Powered Committee firstly did not file the report within the stipulated time and now when the report has been filed before the Tribunal, we have no hesitation in observing that the report does not comply with the directions of the Tribunal in its true spirit and substance. Inter-alia, but primarily, we would point out the following deficiencies and non-compliance of the directions issued by the Tribunal in its judgment:-
l We may notice that the report is not comprehensive and non-compliant in all its major aspects. The stand taken by the Lake Development Authority of Bangalore before the Tribunal is different than the one on the basis of which now the report has been submitted. The committee has also not mentioned the factors relevant for determination of environmental compensation.
l It is stated in the report that there is unauthorized encroachment and possession taken by the builders of nearly 3 acres and 10 guntas. However, as it appears from the records, the State had allotted 63 acres and 37 guntas of lands to the builders. The builders are in possession of practically of 72 Acres of land which they have covered, including the wetlands and have also raised boundary walls and other constructions. It will be obvious that area occupied would be nearly 12.47 guntas and not 3 Acres and 9 guntas as mentioned in the report. The committee has nowhere referred as to what action is required to be taken and what measures should be adopted to remedy this very serious wrong committed by the builders.
l Catchment area and inter-connectivity of the lakes had just been mentioned in the report but without any comments and recommendations as to what steps are required to be taken and what is the extent of damage done by these builders to the ecology and environment, particularly the wetlands of the area in question.
l The Report does not state categorically as to which of the conditions of the environmental clearance order have been complied with and which have not been complied with. It is completely silent on the consequences and remedial measures on that behalf.
l The report has vaguely stated that there should be compliance to the statutory regulations for health and sanitation. It was expected to inform the Tribunal as to the existing or proposed projects of STP/ETP as may be required with regard to their capacity, technology to be adopted, etc. The report is completely silent as to what is the point of discharge of sewage and other effluents from the project in question, what remedial measures are required to be taken for ensuring compliance of the law in that behalf, source of water for construction activity and otherwise and its utilization; whether the water will be recycled and to what extent, as it would be evident that the NOC which the Project Proponent has, is only for 18 flats. We are informed by the Committee members who are present, that the builder is expected to construct around 13.5 Lakh Sq. Mtrs. of area. Unfortunately this aspect did not receive the attention of the Committee members.
lThere is no specific recommendation or observation made in relation to compliance to the conditions of the Environmental Clearance, particularly with regard to Buffer Zone and air pollution.
l (a) It was expected from the Committee to inform the Tribunal as to the measures required to be taken under the sanctioned plans, the various NOCs and clearances granted in relation of air and water pollution and particularly in relation to sewage.
(b) Identification of the ‘kharab land’ and whether the builder is raising any construction on that land and was such construction at all permissible under the conditions imposed upon the builder and in accordance with law in force?
(c) The Committee should have also examined whether there was violation of the condition, that no leveling and dumping particularly on the Rajakaluves is permitted and if the builder had covered any wetlands and Rajakaluves or was interconnectivity adversely affected and what action has been taken for removal of the dumped material?
(d) What was the status of the show cause notice issued by the Pollution Control Board to the builders and what steps were required to be taken?
Non-providing of such information/recommendation by the Committee has made it very difficult for the Tribunal to pass final directions and dispose of the matter in accordance with law.
The Tribunal had very high expectations from the Committee constituted of such Senior Officers and who are experts in their respective fields. It cannot be disputed that Bangalore was a city of lakes and at one point of time, it had 261 lakes out of which only 68 remains as of today.
The Members of the Committee present submit that there are even more water bodies but some of them have dried up as of now. Be that as it may, this is a fit case where the Hon’ble Expert Members of the Tribunal need to visit the site themselves. Having considered the various aspects of the case and to dispose of this matter expeditiously and in accordance with law, it is necessary that the Hon’ble Expert Members of the Tribunal themselves may visit the site and ensure that there should be meaningful interpretation of facts and the correct position as exiting at the site should be placed before the Tribunal in regard to the directions of Tribunal.
(d) We direct the State of Karnataka, all the concerned departments, authorities, Corporations to be present and fully co-operate with the High Powered Committee and to provide all assistance and help to the Hon’ble Expert Members and the Committee.
Let the report be submitted to the Tribunal. List this matter for further directions on 5th October, 2015 on which date we would finally dispose of this case in accordance with law.
The Committee proceedings will continue day to day till conclude.
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