The department and BBMP submitted affidavits and were represented by additional chief secretary Mahendra Jain and joint commissioner Sarfaraz Khan, respectively.
Castigating the BBMP for tweaking its order on the buffer zone around lakes, the NGT had on Tuesday directed that any such attempts in future would be subjected to contempt proceedings. The tribunal also deterred the officials from interfering with the NGT judgment in future, and from using impertinent language with regard to it.
On March 30, 2017, nearly a year after NGT ordered increasing the no-build buffer zone around lakes in Bengaluru from 30metres to 75metres, BBMP issued a fresh circular reinterpreting the order. The circular had stated that the new buffer zone of 75metres for lakes and wetlands won’t apply for building constructions in layouts which have sanction from the planning authority, before the order was issued on May 4, 2016.
The green bench also noted that the intention behind the BBMP circular and legal opinion approved in the UDD letter dated February 16, was clearly to frustrate the NGT judgment. It observed that the language used in the letter and comments given on the judgment dated May 4, 2016, are unacceptable.
“The opinions expressed in the BBMP circular and UDD letter are completely contrary to the tribunal’s judgment. We wish the government on its own should take some action to show they have some respect for law,“ the green bench noted.
The tribunal told the UDD that it should know the law and that NGT is not a quasijudicial body. The NGT has been described as a civil court in the NGT Act, it pointed out.
The circular issue was brought to the notice of the principal bench in New Delhi on Tuesday, by intervener Namma Bengaluru Foundation, when it was hearing the Bellandur Lake case. The bench took exception to the circular and UDD letter, and ordered all officials connected to them to appear before it on Wednesday .
A senior member of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (Credai), Karnataka chapter, said as many as 500 small and big construction projects in different parts of the city were stuck due to confusion over buffer zone norms around lakes and storm water drains.
“There were about 200 projects which got plan sanctions when the NGT issued fresh buffer zone norms in May 2016.And there are about 300 applications that have come before BBMP and BDA after the NGT directive,“ he added.
In its March 2017 circular, BBMP had exempted projects whose plans had been sanctioned before the NGT order, from its buffer zone ruling.Many builders in the city had heaved a sigh of relief as the circular brought clarity on buffer zone norms.
“We are yet to get a copy of the Wednesday order by NGT.I do agree that we need to protect the environment but the lack of clarity on buffer zone laws has left the construction industry in confusion. If somebody has violated norms, let the agencies initiate action. At least 200 big projects (construction on 5 acres to 10 acres) are stuck due to this,“ said Suresh Hari, secretary, Credai-Bengaluru.
Questioning the practicality of the extended buffer zone norms, the Karnataka government had also joined builders’ groups ( For Mutual Benefit) to challenge the NGT order before the Supreme Court recently .
The government impleaded that various constructions and layouts spread over a total area of more than 1,000 acres are stuck due to confusion over the buffer zone.
It includes 40 applications pending approval of layouts covering 789 acres, 21 plans sanctioned by BDA and awaiting occupancy certificate covering 95 acres, and 19 plans awaiting completion certificate and spread over 49 acres.
Mahendra Jain, additional chief secretary , urban development department, said, “We have to follow the NGT directive and withdraw the March 30, 2017 circular.“