HYDERABAD: In an order which may have far reaching consequences, a division bench of the Hyderabad High Court on Monday directed the Telangana government and its civic authorities to conduct a survey of all lakes under the purview of Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA), and determine their Full Tank Level (FTL) and fence them by the end of December.
“No one has a right to stop the authorities either from surveying the tanks or from fencing them. No one can save the buildings that were built within the FTL area. Even the state cannot raise structures or roads in lake bed areas,” the bench said.
Any unauthorised constructions found within the buffer zone of the lakes shall be removed. The authorities concerned shall ensure that all construction activity within the buffer zone as defined by the government would be strictly protected, the bench noted.
About 501 lakes are situated within the area covered by HMDA, out of which 176 lakes fall within the jurisdiction of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).
The bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Dilip B Bhosale and Justice P Naveen Rao was passing these orders in a petition filed by KL Vyas, an environmental activist, who expressed concern over the indiscriminate encroachments allowed on the lake bed of Ramanthapur lake and the action of the officials in granting permissions for raising buildings on prohibited land.
Some building owners also filed cases, challenging the petitioner’s plea on the ground that the authorities are harassing them under the pretext of fixing FTL.
One of the counsels for a private building owner contended that his client had built the structure only after getting title over the land and permissions.
The bench said that the high court is not an appropriate forum to decide the title over properties and petitioners must be allowed time for legal remedies.
The bench further said that in the meantime the authorities need not stop surveying or fencing works. If the building owner succeeds in establishing title over the property, he becomes eligible for claiming compensation.
When the counsel for Telangana state revenue department said that Section 24 of the Telangana Land Revenue Act makes it clear that all lakes, river beds, parks and ponds are state property and anyone claiming ownership over them has to establish them through an authoritative pronouncement, the bench said that there was a need to give time to the petitioners to avail legal remedies.