The National Green Tribunal has flayed an expert committee over its inspection report on the ecologically sensitive area on the land between Bellandur and Agara lakes in Bengaluru and directed all the members of the panel to visit the site afresh.
“Did you read our orders before going to the inspection site. You people have not been sincere which has given a bad impression before us. We rely on you people for deciding a case and you do not discharge your duty properly.
“We are pained that we had to request you to come here. Officers of your rank need not be troubled. We didn’t write a 108-page judgement to be made a mockery of….The tribunal had very high expectations from the committee constituted of such senior officers and who are experts in their respective fields,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
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.
Cracking the whip on two companies Mantri Techzone Pvt Ltd and Core Mind Software and Services Pvt Ltd in Bengaluru, the tribunal had imposed Rs 117.35 crore and Rs 22.5 crore as damages respectively for carrying out illegal construction and degrading the environment.
A committee comprised 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 were also part of the committee that was constituted to make a survey of the ecologically sensitive area on the land between Bellandur and Agara lakes.
The tribunal took strong exception to the report and criticised the committee for non-compliance of the its directions. “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,” the bench said.
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).
( Source – PTI )