CHENNAI: The grandfathers saw water in river. The fathers saw it in well. The present generation is seeing it in tap and the children in bottle. Lets not reduce it to the miniature size of water in ‘capsule’, warned a division bench of the Madras High Court. Unless stringent action or conducive measures are taken, the day is not far off to fix the day zero in our State too, as that of ‘Cape Town’, a bench of Justices M Venugopal (since retired) and S Vaidyanathan cautioned on April 29.
“Though we have all resources in our State, lack of its proper utilisation led us to convert fertile lands into an impotent one by way of encroachment and dumping of solid wastes. Hence, with a view to preserving water bodies and waterways, this court is perforced to issue a set of directions,” the bench said adding that one of which is seeking the help of military personnel to clear encroachments.
It directed the State government to constitute a Special Wing in the Public Works department, headed by the Chief Secretary as its chairman. Secretaries of Revenue, PWD, Commissioners of Land Administration, Corporation of Chennai, Chief Engineer of PWD, chairman of Tangedco, MD of TWAD Board and district Collectors, police officials in the cadre of Commissioner/SPs and Tahsildars and VAOs and others should be the members of the wing.
The wing shall deal exclusively with the management of water bodies, waterways, canals, tanks, etc., throughout the State and also for removal of encroachments in association with Chennai River Restoration Trust. On such constitution, the wing chairman shall make working arrangement of the existing staff for this purpose and provide adequate staff support to the concerned officials to achieve this herculean task of removal of encroachments on water bodies.
The chairman shall convene a meeting with other members once in a month to review the action taken. It should conduct land surveys and prepare Form Nos. I and II prescribed under the TN Protection of Tanks Act, 2007 with respect to all water bodies, waterways, water courses and drainage channels by using advanced instruments, like GPS, ETS, etc. The said exercise should be completed within six months.
The wing should scrupulously follow the recommendations of the Comptroller and Auditor- General of India in Report Nos.4 and 8 of 2017 and also follow the “Guidelines on Urban Drainage” issued by Indian Roads Congress. It must periodically inspect the vehicles used by the PWD, Corporations, etc. throughout Tamil Nadu, by which water is distributed to the needy and ensure that there is no leakage of water, as the tankers have to supply water to the people and not to clean the roads with water. It should also ensure there is no further encroachment and illegal constructions on water bodies, waterways, canals, rivers and tanks.
The bench also said that the government is entitled to take suitable disciplinary action against the members of the wing, including the chairman, in case of dereliction of duties and it should review their works. Erring officials may be placed under suspension or even dismissed from service for their misconduct, dereliction of duty, no devotion to work, lack of integrity so as to deprive their entire gratuity and terminal benefits under the head “moral turpitude”. Whenever the officer responsible for removal of natural resources is found to be hand in glove with the violators, then his or her act would automatically come within the purview of moral turpitude, the bench said.
The bench also directed the State Prevention and Control of Water Pollution Board to inspect all the industries situated in the State and ensure that no waste water released from the plant mixes with rivers, ponds, lakes, oceans, etc., and in the event of any such release of contaminated water, the board should at first take photograph of the same and immediately request the electricity board to disconnect the supply. On such request, the electricity board should act thereon.
The board should also take all possible steps to close down such industries till such time proper outlet is fixed by them and the said board should also introduce drone technology to ascertain whether there is any mixture of waste water into rivers, ponds, etc. In addition, a periodic inspection has to be done every year to ensure there is no underneath pipeline connection, laid for the purpose of releasing waste water into rivers, ponds, etc., as it will be highly impossible to identify such connections by using drone technology.
The bench directed the State govt to constitute a Special Wing which shall deal exclusively with the management of water bodies, waterways, canals, tanks, etc., Throughout the State and also for removal of encroachments in association with Chennai River Restoration Trust