Sunday, September 12, 2004

Lok Adalat asks Forest Dept. to take back Mantri land

Forest Dept. told to take back land

The Hindu

BANGALORE, SEPT. 11. Sitting as the Lok Adalat judge, P. Vishwanath Shetty of the Karnataka High Court, has ordered the Forest Department to retrieve 1.3 acres of land belonging to it by the side of Sankey Tank from a real estate developer who has set out to build a huge apartment block there. The recently beautified and desilted Sankey Tank is one of the very few water bodies left in Bangalore.

Recommendation

Meanwhile the Lake Development Authority has recommended that no construction or development activity be allowed within a distance of 100 metres from lakes in order to ensure that the water bodies in Bangalore are not encroached upon and their conservation and protection are not hindered.

In a parallel development that will have far reaching implications in the way the water bodies in Bangalore are managed, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has also told the Lok Adalat that it had taken note of the complaints and protests of residents and citizens about the move to build an apartment complex near Sankey Tank.

The KSPCB member-secretary issued an order on August 27, which makes it clear that the proposal of Abhishek Builders and Mantri Developers to build an 18-floor luxury apartment block near Sankey Tank has been shot down after gross violations of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act were found.

Complaint

The KSPCB acted on a complaint from Grahak Shakti, a non-governmental organisation, and also took note of the widespread opposition to the project from residents of Malleswaram and Sadashivanagar.

Grahak Shakti has impleaded itself in the case and sought the cancellation of permission for the project, on the grounds that it will lead to the depletion of the water-table and pollute the lake and the environment around it.

Notice issued

In a hearing earlier this week, the Forest Department too said it had found the promoters of the apartment complex violating rules. It served the promoters with a notice for cutting down 33 trees even though no permission was granted for the same. About one acre of the land where the project is proposed belongs to the Forest Department, the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Parameshwar, told the Lok Adalat.

The Bangalore Mahanagara Palike has also refused permission and the certificates necessary for the project to go ahead, the Lok Adalat was told. It has service notice on the promoters and issued a notice in the media warning the public against investing in the project.

But what V.K. Somashekar, managing trustee of Grahak Shakti, finds intriguing is that despite not being permitted to go ahead with the project and the opposition to it, the promoters have issued statements in the newspapers claiming that they are not violating the law.

Old case

The Sankey Tank issue is part of an older case filed in 1985 by E.V Nagarathna, an advocate, after the N. Lakshman Rau Committee came out with a comprehensive report on managing and conserving the lakes whose number had dwindled from 265 to 117 as Bangalore developed at a frenetic pace. The Lake Development Authority, the civic agencies and the Forest Department have been implementing many programmes to protect Bangalore's water bodies.

After hearing the statements of the agencies and the Forest Department, the judge issued the order to the Forest Department about the land.

The Forest Department had been using the land in question as a yard for storing sandalwood. Sankey Tank is also called Gandadakoti Kere.

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