By Varun Nambiar
The National Green Tribunal (NGT), a judicial body that adjudicates environmental matters in India, on Friday imposed a penalty of 500 million Indian Rupees (approximately USD $7 million) on the state government of Karnataka for failing to protect lakes in its capital city of Bangalore.
The tribunal also directed the government to deposit 5 billion Indian Rupees (approximately USD $70 million) in an escrow account to facilitate environmental regeneration in the city’s lakes, as per the “polluter pays” principle.
Finding that the government has been negligent in protecting the city’s lakes and in keeping storm-water drains free from encroachment by unauthorized commercial and residential buildings, the NGT directed it to come up with an “action plan” to mitigate the damage to the lakes and tackle the situation within a month.
A retired Supreme Court judge, Santosh Hegde, has been appointed to lead a committee tasked with ensuring governmental adherence to the timelines of this action plan. It will also set up a website and garner complaints and suggestions from citizens. The state government is to issue a 1 billion Indian Rupee (approximately USD $14 million) performance guarantee, in case it fails to implement the action plan.
Polluted lakes frothing with toxic foam have been a concern in Bangalore. Bellandur lake, one of the city’s most polluted, has caught fire twice in two years and is a health hazard for residents. A report published by a committee of Karnataka legislators has found that of the 1,547 lakes in the city, only 158 lakes have not been encroached upon by government agencies and private builders.