NGT asks Karnataka govt to clear all buffer zones along lakes in Bangalore

In a landmark judgment, the Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), New Delhi, directed the Karnataka government to demolish all existing construction falling within buffer zones of lakes and Rajakaluves (feeder canals of lakes) in Bengaluru.

The bench directed the government to increase the buffer zones and ensure that no further construction takes place in such areas. The buffer zone of lakes has been enhanced from 30 metres to 75 metres. The revised buffer zone for the Rajakaluves is 50 metres, 35 metres and 25 metres for primary, secondary and tertiary canals respectively. The NGT also ordered that the buffer zone around Rajakaluves should be measured from the edge and not from the middle.

If implemented in toto, the order will lead to the demolition of large number of buildings all over the City and displacement of lakhs of people.

The ruling came in the wake of a petition by the Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF) and other Residents’ Welfare Associations (RWAs) in connection with the encroachment of the wetland of Agara and Bellandur lakes in the City by Mantri Tech Zone Private Limited and Coremind Software and Services Private Limited.

Hefty penalty

In view of various illegalities in the execution of a large project coming up at the ecologically sensitive wetland between Agara and Bellandur lakes, the NGT confirmed a fine of Rs 130.5 crore on Mantri Tech Zone and Coremind.

While Mantri has been fined Rs 117 crore, Coremind Software will have to pay Rs 13.5 crore. The NGT had earlier slapped a fine of Rs 139.85 crore on the two firms, prompting the affected parties to approach the Supreme Court (SC). While staying the order, the SC had referred the case back to the tribunal to decide the pleas on merit. The fresh NGT order gave a relief of Rs nine crore to Coremind Software and Rs 35 lakh to Mantri Developers.

The NGT also quashed the environmental clearances given to the firms and stayed the construction of the project till the time the developers obtain fresh clearance. It has directed the developers to restore the 3 acre 10 guntas of encroached lake bed area immediately to the authorities. It ordered the State Environmental Impact Assessment Agency (SEIAA) to amend the environmental clearance of both the project proponents and allow all further construction under the monitoring of SEIAA.

Also, the Karnataka government has been directed to submit a proposal demarcating wetlands within four weeks to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) after which the same shall be notified.

There is a combined direction to remove the debris deposited in the feeder canals (Rajakaluve) within four weeks, failing which Lake Development Authority (LDA) will undertake the cleaning and the cost will have to be borne by the two builders. SEIAA has also been directed to prepare a muck-disposal plan within three months.

Hailing the order, the founder trustee of NBF and Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar said it will help restore lakes and Rajakaluves (feeder canals), which are falling prey to land sharks. He said the government has to play a proactive role in restoring the water bodies instead of regularising the illegal constructions in the name of Akrama Sakrama.

When contacted, Mantri Developers said, “We are yet to receive the order copy and can comment only after we get the same.”
What is a buffer zone of a lake?

Buffer zones are natural vegetated area along a lake, river or stream. They are meant to provide natural filtration of these water bodies and protection against flooding or swelling of rivers, lakes and streams.

* Buffer zones of lakes and Rajakaluves increased
* All structures on buffer zones to be demolished
* Buffer zone for lakes will be 75 metres
* Buffer zones for primary, secondary and tertiary canals will be 50 m, 35 m and 25 m respectively
* The buffer zone around Rajakaluves to be measured from edge
* Order may lead to demolition of thousands of buildings and displacement of people
* Fine of Rs 130.5 crore on Mantri-Coremind confirmed
* Builders accused of encroaching on Bellandur wetland between Agara and Bellandur
* Ruling based on Namma Bengaluru Foundation’s petition in Bellandur lake case

Credits Deccan Herald

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