Bengaluru: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) came down heavily on the Karnataka government and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) for failing to protect the city lakes and to keep rajakaluves (storm water drains) clear from encroachments.
The NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel has directed the state government to deposit Rs 500 crore in an escrow account for execution of an action plan to clean the water bodies on Thursday.
The state also has to pay a fine of Rs 50 crore to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for the restoration of damages caused to the environment due to its 'colossal neglect'.
In addition, BBMP will also have to deposit Rs 25 crore to the CPCB, of which Rs 10 crore will be transferred to the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB).
The NGT, which filed a suo-motto case against the State of Karnataka, observed that despite several warnings and a constitutional and statutory framework in place, the state government and the BBMP had failed to discharge their obligation to the society.
The Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF) which is an impleading applicant in the case welcomed the courts directions.
Suresh NR, head of NBF said, "We (NBF) stand vindicated. The government of Karnataka has to take responsibility, people must be held accountable. Art. 243W, cast the responsibility on the municipalities to protect its lakes, but they have failed to do so."
Reacting to the court’s order, Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrashekar tweeted, “This is a landmark judgement in the fight to save Bengaluru from a group of vultures’ exploiting our Bengaluru.”
The court then asked for an action plan to be prepared by the state within a month’s time and will also have to give specific time-lines for the various actions it will be undertaking.
A committee that will be constituted to oversee the implementation will be headed by Justice Santosh Hegde, former Supreme Court jugde, Prof TV Ramachandran of IISc, and a representative from the CPCB, KSPCB and from the Additional Chief Secretary of the State.
The committee will have to set up a website to receive complaints and suggestions on the matter. It will also have to oversee the time lines and the action plans to be prepared by the state of Karnataka. Justice Hegde will also be entitled to get any assistance from persons of his choice.
The tribunal also said that it would go by the 'Polluter Pay Principle' and hence the officers in-charge would be personally responsible for the failure in implementing the action plan. Moreover, this would lead to recording impediments in their further career as well.
The state government will also have to furnish a performance guarantee and in case of failure to implement the plan, the Karnataka government will have to cough up Rs 100 crore as a penalty.