An NGO on Tuesday claimed before the Supreme Court that the National Green Tribunal’s order enhancing the buffer zone around lakes and waterbodies in Bengaluru would be applied for future construction and it will not result in any demolition there.
Senior advocate Sajan Povayya, appearing for ‘Forward Foundation’, maintained before a three-judge bench presided over by Justice A K Sikri that the tribunal did have power under Section 15(1) (c) of the NGT Act to issue directions for restitution of environment, which could even be contrary to the master plan.
“I assume the NGT can’t tweak the law or amend the statute. But there are examples where the tribunal ordered for shifting of particular industries being run according to the law to protect the environment and ecology. As there was egregious conduct by the real estate developers, the NGT in this case, decided to enlarge the buffer zone,” he said.
The counsel also gave an example of the tribunal banning 10-year-old diesel vehicles in the national capital region as they were causing air pollution.
However, the bench, comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and M R Shah, said that example could not be cited in every other case. “Where is the study to revise the buffer zone when the master plan had fixed it as 30-metre,” the bench asked him.
To this, the counsel went into the background of the matter to contend that Bellandur, Agrahara and Yelahanka lakes have been polluted too much, affecting people’s right to life.
“Our lakes were to be preserved for the next generation as well. However, there were incidents of fires in the lakes, and even froth started coming out. The people are entitled to the right to life, besides the right to livelihood,” he said.
“No doubt, the master plan covers the field. But in the facts and circumstances of the case, the NGT can issue a direction to restore the environment,” he said.
The counsel also pointed out that the apex court had earlier declined to interfere with the matter, and asked the NGT to examine the whole issue.
The NGT was vested with the judicial as well as technical members to go into all aspects, and it had passed the detailed order to rejuvenate waterbodies of the city, he said.
He described the Karnataka government’s contention that if the NGT orders were enforced, 95% of buildings in Bengaluru had to be demolished as “overzealous reading” of the directions.
The court on Wednesday would continue hearing the batch of petitions filed by the state government as well as several real estate developers, challenging the validity of NGT’s principal bench orders of May 4, 2016 for maintaining a buffer zone and green belt of 75-metre in case of lakes, 50-metre for primary, 35-metre for secondary and 25-metre for tertiary rajkaluves (stormwater drains).