BBMP offers 'unconditional apology', NGT shuts all industries near Bellandur lake
- The NGT lashed out at the BBMP after discovering a circular dismissing its order.
- The BBMP offered an unconditional apology and withdrew the circular.
- In the interim, the NGT ordered the shutting of all industries near Bellandur lake
It was a heated day for Bengaluru's Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), whose officials were summoned to Delhi to explain a circular the body had issued last month, in which it seemed to dismiss the NGT's earlier order on construction and pollution of lakes. The circular claimed that the NGT was a quasi-judicial body and had no authority since the BBMP only has to follow the rules of the state government.
Unamused with this attempt to circumvent their orders, the NGT summoned BBMP officials to Delhi for an immediate hearing.
In that hearing, BBMP Joint Commissioner Sarfaraz Khan and Urban Development Department (UDD) secretary Mahendra Jain submitted an affidavit tendering an unconditional apology and undertaking to withdraw the circular (dated 30.03.2017) and UDD letter (dated 16.02.2017) with immediate effect.
The tribunal also directed that if any such attempt is brought to its notice, the same shall be subjected to contempt proceedings before the Tribunal. The Tribunal also deterred the officials from interfering with the NGT judgment in future or from using impertinent language for the Tribunal.
Tribunal noted that the intention behind the BBMP circular and legal opinion approved in the UDD letter clearly intended to frustrate the NGT judgment. The Tribunal observed that "we wish the government on its own should take some action to show they have some respect for the law."
The Tribunal told the UDD that it should know the law correctly that NGT is not a quasi-judicial body, and has been described as a Civil Court in the NGT Act.
Meanwhile, the Tribunal also passed many interim directions for the Bellandur Lake:
1) All industries in the vicinity of Bellandur Lake (Old Bellandur Village) are directed to be closed forthwith. No industry will be permitted to operate unless allowed by Joint Inspection Team(JIT).
2) JIT may seal the industries with the help of police and KSPCB
3) No waste - Municipal Solid, Domestic, CMD shall be dumped into the Lake or in the buffer zone (prescribed by NGT) around the lakes. If anybody found polluting/dumping, environmental compensation of Rs 5 Lakh per event to be imposed.
4) CEO of KLCDA, Commissioner BDA, UDD shall be personally responsible for implementation of the above directions.
5) A committee constituting of senior officials of the BDA, KLCDA and UDD (not below rank of Addl. Secretary) to ensure a one-time cleaning of the entire Bellandur Lake
6) All local authorities have been directed to ensure no untreated sewage enters the Lake.
7) The state will be entitled to invoke Polluter Pays Principle and direct developers to bear costs for transfer of sewage.
8) Karnataka to place before the Tribunal, within a period of 2 weeks, an Action Plan to ultimately prevent and control pollution in Bellandur Lake.
Reacting to the order, MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar said -
"Today’s NGT order on Bellandur lake is a slap on Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) & Urban Development Department (UDD) who despite having been exposed multiple times continue to be a front for builders and not the interest of the city and voices of the people. The pathetic sight of seeing senior IAS officer and the Joint Commissioner of BBMP having to apologise unconditionally and withdrawal of its circular must give the government a pause about their continued support for law-breaking builders and officials."