The December 6 order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on lakes has created a state of confusion among homebuyers and builders by laying down new but unclear buffer zone norms. Issued with the purpose of saving the polluted Bellandur and Agara lakes from extinction, this recent order has in the process, added another layer of buffer zone regulation, leaving the industry, urban planners and homebuyers confused and in a state of panic.
The NGT, in its earlier judgement in the Forward Foundation case on Agara-Bellandur lake encroachment, had classified buffer zones into four categories. Accordingly, a lake would have a buffer zone of 75 metres, up from 30 earlier.
As for storm water drains (SWDs) or rajakaluves, the primary one will have a buffer area of 50 metres, secondary drains will have 35 metres and tertiary will have 25 metres.
But, the December 6 NGT order bars construction activities up to 75 metres from the boundary of a storm water drain. “Structures, between 30 and 75 metres of rajakaluves, which have already been constructed prior to 07.05.2015 (Forward Foundation Judgment) but are uninhabited, not to be occupied without the prior permission of the Hon’ble Tribunal and in any event not until the commissioning of the STPs in order to prevent generation of more sewage,” the NGT order says.
The order also prevents under-construction buildings in areas up to 75 metres from rajakaluves from continuing work without prior permission of the tribunal and not until the commissioning of STPs.
Moreover, the NGT recommends withdrawal of permission, sanction and environment clearance issued to structures falling within 75 metres of rajakaluves if the construction was below 25% of the total built-up area as on May 7, 2015.
The new order has given jitters to homebuyers and builders alike, who were granted building permission in the last two years in areas after maintaining 50 metres buffer zones and those which were given permission before the 2015 NGT judgment.
The government agencies responsible for issuing permissions, too, are in a dilemma on how to deal with the new crisis.
While the Urban Development Department additional chief secretary Mahendra Jain, who is a party in the case, said he is yet to read the order copy in detail, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board has called for an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the issue.
The KSPCB issues ‘consent for establishment’ and ‘consent for operation’ for residential and commercial establishments.
“We are enforcing the NGT judgement in Forward Foundation case by maintaining a buffer zone of 75, 50, 35 and 25 metres for lakes, primary, secondary and tertiary rajakaluves, respectively. But the latest NGT order says a buffer zone of 75 metres should be maintained around rajakaluves. We will discuss the issue in a meeting tomorrow (Monday), talk with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and UDD and seek necessary clarifications,” said KSPCB chairman Lakshman.