Spike in illegal building activities causes Naini Lake’s water level to plummet

When the world is being impacted heavily due to climate change, the least one can do is take care of the surroundings and not destroy nature.

But even the hills and lakes are not being spared now. Among overpopulation, pollution, ocean acidification, deforestation, ozone depletion, etc, illegal construction is also damaging the environment.

Talking about the popular hill station Nainital, due to illegal construction the water level of Naini lake has gone down and the recharge of groundwater is being affected.

Surrounded by panoramic hills, Nainital lake is a favourite spot for tourists. It is one of the most visited lakes in India.

There is now illegal construction in the catchment area of the lake, beyond carrying capacity. Commercial construction is taking place disregarding environmental concerns. Recently, even landslides have happened.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had sought a report from the Uttarakhand State Pollution Control Board, District Magistrate, Nainital, and Secretary, Urban Development after a plea was filed in 2019.

It was noted that similar issues are pending before the Uttarkhand High Court already.

The public interest litigation was filed keeping in mind the encroachments and illegal construction in the submerged area of Sukhatal Lake, as well as encroachments and illegal construction elsewhere in Nainital.

The court had said that construction around Sukhatal Lake is not permissible under the law and that all unauthorised construction activities in progress shall stop with immediate effect.

The court had said: “Any unauthorised construction which is already there, the Lake Development Authority is given instructions to give notices to the occupants of these unauthorized premises so that such structures be removed in accordance with the law.”

According to an order dated July 28, the matter has been taken up by the Uttarakhand High Court.

In view of the recently filed petition by Friends, an environmental organisation and activist Sushil Raghav, the NGT said: “The authorities are bound to comply with the directions of the High Court on the subject and in case of violations, the aggrieved party can take remedies in accordance with the law.”

The NGT recently granted a month’s time to the Pollution Control Board (PCB), Uttarakhand along with other government officials to submit a response on unauthorised cutting of trees in the forest area adjacent to Nainital city.

Since the Naini lake gets recharged by forest areas around it, its catchment area is also in danger of loss.

According to the order, the applicant had submitted that some of the trees belonged to the endangered species.

On September 1, the NGT had constituted a Joint Committee and directed it to submit a factual and action-taken report within two months.

Pursuant to the direction, Uttarakhand PCB’s Assistant Section Officer Dr Rajendra Singh had sent a report of the Joint Committee on October 31.

“In view of the averments in the application and observations in the report of the Joint Committee, we consider it appropriate to have the response of the State of Uttarakhand through the Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary, Department of Environment and Forest, Principal Secretary, Urban Development, Divisional Commissioner, Kumaon, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (HoFF), Commissioner, Nainital Municipality and Uttarakhand PCB who stand impleaded as respondents No. 1 to 7,” the order stated.

Looking at the significant nature and impact of the environmental violations involved, the NGT also appointed Senior Advocate Akash Vashishtha as amicus curiae to assist this Tribunal in a just and fair adjudication of the questions involved.

The matter will now be considered on February 3, 2023.

(Supriya Ramesh can be reached at supriya.r@ians.in)

20221211-082401

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