NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday asked all builders in the buffer zones of Bengaluru‘s famed lakes and wetlands to push back their projects 75 metres from the edge of these water bodies and refused to halt demolitions initiated by the local authority to open up drains discharging excess water from lakes to prevent a repeat of the recent deluge.
A bench, comprising Chief Justice of India TS Thakur and justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, also directed that no construction activity be carried out for now in all such cases while staying fine amounts imposed on one entity by the National Green Tribunal. The NGT had in an order passed on May 4 increased the buffer zone to be maintained as green zones around wetlands and lakes from 30 metres to 75 metres from the edge of the water body.
This has been challenged earlier in the top court, which stayed a fine on another entity on an assurance that no further construction activity will be carried out. On Monday, a second entity, Coremind Software Services Private Limited, came to the court seeking similar relief.
But senior advocate Harish N. Salve opposed this saying, “Lots of things have changed on the ground. That was before the monsoon… and the deluge.”
Salve argued that hectic construction activity in the city had choked up the lakes and flooded the city. “After 70 mm rains there were fish on the streets of Bangalore,” he contended. “The government has for a change gone after those who have blocked the drains which caused the lakes to run over,” he said.
Appearing for Coremind Software Services, senior advocate Raju Ramachandran argued that his client had only excavated the land and not built on it. No construction has started, he said, urging the court to stay a Rs 13.5 crore fine on it. But the court only issued notices on his plea, without interfering with any demolition notices issued by the Bangalore Development Authority.
Salve appeared for Forward Foundation, which had raised this issue with the NGT. The tribunal had slapped a fine of Rs 20 crore, which was later reduced to Rs 13.5 crore. The top court stayed the fine, but on condition that no further construction be carried out.
The CJI insisted that the company push back its walls 75 metres back from the water’s edge. “Why don’t you remove the encroachment yourself ?” he said.
The CJI then passed a status quo order, but indicated that the top court might itself address the issue.
Credits ET Realty