Lonar lake situation ‘bad, pathetic’: Bombay High Court

The bench said it is necessary that the sewage water be prevented from flowing into the lake immediately and to divert it to some relatively safer spot. (Photo source: Twitter)

The situation at the Lonar crater lake, the colour of which has turned pink, is bad and pathetic, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court has said.

It rapped the Buldhana district collector and the Lonar Municipal Council for their “callous and indifferent attitude” in preserving and protecting the lake and its surrounding area.

The oval-shaped Lonar lake, formed after a meteorite hit the Earth some 50,000 years ago, is a popular tourist hub located in Maharashtra’s Buldhana district.

The colour of the lake water recently turned pink, which has not only surprised locals, but also nature enthusiasts and scientists.

A division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Anil Kilor was on Monday hearing a petition filed by one Kirti Nipankar, raising concern over the change in the lake colour.

The court said it is the fundamental duty of all citizens to protect, preserve and improve this unique water body, a natural wonder, and encourage and promote world-class scientific research of the lake, its properties, life present in it and the entire geology of the area.

Last month, the high court directed the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and the Geological Survey of India (GSI) to submit an environmental impact assessment report on the lake.

The HC had also issued other directions, including inspection by a court-appointed committee and an order to Buldhana collector and the Lonar Municipal Council’s chief officer to ensure preservation of the area around the lake.

After perusing the inspection report submitted by the court-appointed committee, the bench on Monday said the situation at the Lonar lake is really pathetic.

The pathetic situation has arisen mainly because of the indifference, rather callous indifference, of many of the authorities responsible in their own way for conservation and preservation of the Lonar crater lake, the court said in its order, which was made available on Tuesday.

The bench noted that the primary responsibility lies upon the shoulders of the Buldhana collector and then on the Lonar Municipal Council’s chief officer.

It said only the forest department was taking the whole matter seriously and also making an effort to comply with the court’s orders.

The bench noted that the Buldhana collector and Lonar Municipal Council authorities have not complied with the court’s directions passed last month.

These directions pertained to shifting of the Lonar-Kinhi road, which is passing through the eco-sensitive zone containing a cover of ejecta blanket debris, an environmental impact assessment by the PWD before starting construction of the road, and obtaining clearances from the environmental authority for the road construction.

“Other directions included the Buldhana collector to take immediate steps to protect the ejecta blanket material against possible thefts and pilferage and submit a report, the court said, adding that no report has been submitted.

We are of the prima facie view that Buldhana collector, a district-level representative of the Maharashtra government, has failed in discharging fundamental duties. Because of the indifference and neglect on the part of some of these authorities, the situation at the Lonar crater lake has turned really bad, the court said.

The bench directed all the officers and heads of departments concerned to remain present through video conference before the court on the next date of hearing and submit their affidavits or reports.

If any officer remains absent that day or reports/affidavits are not filed, then the HC will be forced to pass a coercive order against the officer responsible for deliberate absence and/or breach of court directions, the bench said.

Advocate Anand Parchure, appearing for the petitioner, told the court that two issues of immediate concern are open defecation by Lonar residents at various spots near the lake and discharge of sewage water of the entire city into the Lonar lake.

The bench said it is necessary that the sewage water be prevented from flowing into the lake immediately and to divert it to some relatively safer spot.

“We direct the Lonar Municipal Council’s chief officer to stop the flow of sewage water into the Lonar lake within three days and divert it to some other safer spot and submit his report, the court said.

If the directions were not complied with, the court would not hesitate to initiate contempt action, it said. NEERI and GSI informed the court on Monday that they would submit their report on the next date of hearing on July 22.

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