A ₹500 cr escrow account and judge: The NGT plan to fix Bellandur lake
The National Green Tribunal on Thursday fined the state of Karnataka ₹50 crore and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, the city corporation, taking issue with the state’s “negligence” in protecting the lakes of Bengaluru.
The city’s lakes have hit newspaper headlines over the past few years, first with Bellandur lake, which had caught fire and then with other lakes as well, all of which froth and foam when there is rain.
The NGT has also asked the government to deposit ₹500 crore in an escrow account for the execution of an action plan on the rejuvenation of lakes. It has ordered the setting up of a committee headed by former Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde, which has been tasked with overseeing the implementation of its order. The committee will also include noted scientist TV Ramachandra, who is a faculty at the Indian Institute of Sciences.
Of the fine that the BBMP has been directed to pay the Central Pollution Control Board, ₹10 crore has to be transferred to the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board for providing logistical support to the Hegde committee.
Speaking about the order, Mahendra Jain, additional chief secretary of the Urban Development Department, said the order copy had not yet been received. “However, we will honour the tribunal’s directions,” he said.
“As regards the rejuvenation of the lakes, these are not things that can be rectified overnight. We face legacy issues where drainage has been flowing into thes lakes for a very long time. We have set about in addressing these issues,” Jain said.
Meanwhile, the Namma Bengaluru Foundation, an NGO that has been impleaded in the case, said it welcomed the “historic order” of the NGT. Suresh NR of the foundation said: “Our contention that there has been apathy has been upheld by the NGT. We have been crying ourselves hoarse that the authorities must step in and address the issue immediately, but to no avail,” he said.
Suresh said the state government had set up various committees, which had over the years detailed the various kinds of illegalities that had led to current situation. “What action was taken on the three reports that were submitted to the government on the illegal encroachment of lake beds? In fact, last year the government came up with this new concept of dead lakes,” he said.
However, Suresh said, it was now time to join hands with the Hegde committee and aid it in addressing the issue.