Bengaluru: Mantri Developers fined ₹114 crore for ecological violations
A landmark judgement by the principal bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), New Delhi on Wednesday directed the demolition of structures violating buffer zone norms around lakes and rajakaluves in Bengaluru.
The bench also has set a higher threshold for the buffer, increasing it from the existing 30 meters to 75 meters around the lakes. Further, the NGT has directed the buffer zone of the rajakaluves to be calculated from the edge of the drain as opposed to the current norm of measuring from the center of the drain.
The ruling was in response to the application filed by Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF), an initiative by MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar. Various illegalities in the execution of a large mixed-used project coming up in the ecologically sensitive area between Agara and Bellandur Lake were highlighted in the petition.
Based on the findings by experts, the project proponents - Mantri Tech Zone Pvt. Ltd. and Coremind Software and Services Pvt. Ltd were fined ₹117 crore and ₹13.5 crore respectively by the bench.
Apart from the fine imposed, the NGT has quashed the environmental clearance and stayed the construction of the project till a fresh clearance is obtained. The judgement comes amid high concerns about the encroachment of lake beds and other ecologically sensitive eco-systems in Bengaluru by property developers.
Speaking about the verdict, Sridhar Pabbisetty, CEO, Namma Bengaluru Foundation said, "This landmark judgement is a major shot in the arm in the fight against the encroachment of lakes and water bodies in Bengaluru. At a juncture where we are losing our lakes to vested interests and unsustainable development within the city, the decision of the NGT to increase the buffer zone around the lakes and rajakaluves is a great precedent. I want to thank MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar for his steadfast support and the citizens groups for their partnership in his historic win for our city.”
The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board already has instructed civic agencies to be strict with buildings coming up near lakes and rajakaluves. "We are waiting for judgement copy to initiate steps from our side," Lakshman, Chairman of the KSPCB, told Asianet Newsable.
Mantri Developers also told Asianet Newsable that they would await a copy of the judgement before commenting.
Highlights of the judgement:
A) Buffer zone for construction around lakes increased from 30 metres to 75 metres
B) Buffer zone around rajakaluves to be measured from the edge of the drain. The revised buffer zone is 50 meters, 35 meters and 25 meters for primary, secondary and tertiary drains respectively.
C) All existing constructions in the city, which fall within such buffer zones, has been directed to be demolished and no further structures shall be permitted in the buffer zone.
D) Mantri Tech Zone Pvt. Ltd has been directed to restore a three-acre encroached lake bed immediately to authorities.
E) SEIAA (State Environmental Impact assessment Agency) has been directed to amend the environmental clearance of both the project proponents and all further constructions of these two projects shall be conducted under the monitoring of SEIA.
F) The state of Karnataka has been directed to submit a proposal demarcating wetlands within four weeks.
G) Both proponents have been asked to remove debris deposited in the rajakaluve within four weeks, failing which the LDA shall undertake the same and charges will be paid by the two builders.
H) SEIAA has also been directed to prepare a muck-disposal plan within three months.