The Supreme Court, on March 5, 2019, set aside the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT’s) order enlarging the buffer zone limits around lakes and water bodies in Bengaluru. An apex court bench allowed the appeals filed by the Karnataka government and others, seeking direction for maintaining a buffer zone and green belt of 75 metres in case of lakes, 50 metres for primary, 35 metres for secondary and 25 metres for tertiary ‘Rajkulewas’.
The state government was aggrieved with the directions of the NGT, saying these were against the revised master plan of Bengaluru 2015, which had got a statutory character. The state had said the directions were against the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Act, Planning Act, Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976, adding that the buffer zone was already fixed as 30 metres. However, the apex court said that a central legislation enacted under Entry 13 of List I Schedule VII of the Constitution will have the overriding effect over state legislations. “The corollary is that the tribunal while providing for restoration of environment in an area, can specify buffer zones around specific lakes and water bodies, in contradiction with zoning regulations under these statutes or the RMP (revised master plan).”
The top court, however, dismissed the appeals filed by Mantri Techzone Pvt Ltd and Core Mind Software and Services Pvt Ltd against the findings of encroachment of water bodies in Bengaluru. “It is also clear from the materials on record that there is a definite possibility of environment, ecology, lakes and wetland being adversely affected by these projects,” it said. It said that the NGT’s findings that the projects – for setting up of a software technology park, commercial and residential complex, hotel and multi-level car parks in the protected zone in between the Bellandur Lake and the Agara Lake – would cause serious damage to environment, were right.
NGT orders immediate closure of industries near Bengaluru lake
The National Green Tribunal has ordered an immediate and complete shutdown of all industries around Bengaluru’s Bellandur Lake, where a mound of garbage was set on fire in February 2017
April 20, 2017: Slamming the local civic bodies for inaction, a bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), headed by chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, on April 19, 2017, directed the closure of all industries located in the vicinity of Bellandur Lake and discharging effluents. “No industry is permitted to operate, unless an inspection by a joint inspection team is conducted and analysis of the effluent is found to be within the permissible limits,” the bench, which also comprised Justice RS Rathore, said.
The green panel ordered the State Pollution Control Board, to seal the industries which are violating the directions. The bench also banned dumping of any kind of municipal solid waste around the lake and announced an environment compensation of Rs 5 lakh, on anyone found dumping waste in and around the lake.
The tribunal had, on April 18, 2017, taken objection to a legal opinion by the state government, while interpreting its May 4, 2016 order that had increased the buffer zone of lakes from 30 metres to 75 metres in Bengaluru. Earlier, the NGT had lashed out at the Karnataka government and its agencies responsible for maintenance of the Bellandur Lake, asking them why they should not be prosecuted for negligence, following the outbreak of a fire in the waterbody. It had earlier issued a notice to the Union Environment Ministry, the Karnataka government, Lake Authority of Bangalore, the State Pollution Control Board and the Central Pollution Control Board, in the case.
On February 20, 2017, the NGT had taken suo motu cognisance of media reports and photographs of the incident in which a fire broke out in the Bengaluru lake. “It is reported that there were thick clouds of smoke, which severely hit traffic and people living around the lake. It is also reported that usually a pile of garbage around the lake is set on fire and there was total panic. Undoubtedly, such emissions are bound to be have an adverse impact on the environment, ecology and human health. It is a matter that requires serious investigation, remedial measures and restoration of the lake to its original wholesome status,” it had said.
A thick cloud of white smoke persisted in the air around Bellandur Lake in Bengaluru, after the blaze in a garbage mound around it on February 16, 2017.