In a significant judgment, the Orissa High Court on Thursday directed the State Government to formulate a strong law for protection and preservation of water bodies in the State.
The division bench of Justices BP Das and MM Das also declared all conversions of water bodies in Cuttack City after 2005 as illegal and invalid. The Court had on April 8, 2005 directed status quo on the existing water bodies in the city, prohibiting conversion and any construction on them.
The bench ordered the Revenue Divisional Commissioner (central range) to constitute a committee with not more than seven members, including the collector, an environmentalist, a member of the State Pollution Control Board, CMC Commissioner and CDA Vice-Chairman to monitor the water bodies.
The committee would examine all applications filed with the tehsildars concerned for conversion of water bodies after the status quo order.
All such applications would be declared invalid and appropriate action initiated. Henceforth, all applications filed for conversion would be routed through the committee for a final decision, the bench ruled.
Acting on a PIL against indiscriminate conversion and filling up of tanks and ponds which posed serious threat to the environment and ecology of the city, the Court had issued a status quo on such activities in 2005. It had also directed the Revenue Department authorities to ascertain the status of the water bodies and take steps for their revival.
The CMC Commissioner had been made the custodian of the water bodies and asked to chalk out a strategy for their protection, preservation and revival.
In 2007, the then RDC had filed an affidavit providing details of the surviving water bodies in the city on the basis of a geo-satellite mapping undertaken by ORSAC. It had been submitted that the number of water bodies, including tanks and ponds, had come down from 424 in 1990 to 310 in 2006. Of the surviving ones, 79 were Government and 231 private.
The Court had concluded its hearing on the PIL and reserved its judgment in June last year. The issue was again raised before the bench in July by amicus curiae PR Das, who alleged that the status quo order was blatantly violated and conversion of water bodies continued unabated.
The final judgment came on Thursday.