BENGALURU: Observing that the state government and BBMP have completely failed to protect lakes and tanks in the city, the High Court on Monday directed the state government to appoint National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI). This will study lakes and tanks, identify ‘disappeared lakes’, and suggest measures for rejuvenating lakes scientifically.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice HT Narendra Prasad issued several interim directions after hearing a batch of PILs.Stating that the state government cannot shirk away from its responsibility, the court said it is the primary duty of the state to maintain lakes and tanks. It should submit the terms and documents of appointment of NEERI to the court within a month from the date of receiving a copy of this order, it said.
The court’s interim directions came in view of the different statistics on the number of lakes in Bengaluru given by government agencies — 286 as per Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA), 168 as per the BBMP and 378 as per the Lake Development Authority.
The court said none of the authorities are sure about the number of lakes, and there is absolutely no account for disappeared lakes. In total, 19 lakes have disappeared as per the affidavit filed by BBMP.
While asking the state government to pay the charges for NEERI, the court asked it to submit the first report containing the short- and long-term measures for restoration and rejuvenation of lakes within three months. NEERI can also take the assistance of an expert agency to find out about disappeared lakes, it said.
The court observed that mere beautification around lakes does not amount to rejuvenation, and that a scientific approach is required to bring back the glory of lakes. It also directed the government to come up with compensation for destruction of lakes to form layouts, construct temples, schools and bus stands.
Referring to the contention of the government that some buildings have been erected as part of development of the city, the court said the state cannot destroy lakes for buildings. “The concept of the state seems to be that in the name of development, lakes can be destroyed. How can the city become a smart city without lakes?
After the study by NEERI, the state should come out with steps on damages for destruction of lakes,” the court said.