Supreme Court has held on Monday that a State cannot be permitted to alienate common water bodies for industrial activities and purposes, under the disguise of providing alternatives.
The appellant in the present case, one Jitendra Singh is a resident of Delhi NCR. He preferred an original application before the National Green Tribunal against a private entity which forcibly took possession over a ‘common pond’ used by the residents for over a century. The petition was summarily dismissed on grounds of an affidavit filed by the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority stating that it has been developing a bigger alternative water-body.
The State of Uttar Pradesh had rendered a Government Order in 2003 which allowed the destruction of the natural existing water body contingent on the development of a 25% larger alternative water body elsewhere. Hence, the order provided for a replacement and destruction of the existing pond.
The Division Bench comprising of Justices Arun Mishra and Surya Kant held that providing such a replacement with artificial water body cannot be permitted and stated:
“Although it might be possible to superficially replicate a waterbody elsewhere, however, there is no guarantee that the adverse effect of destroying the earlier one would be offset. Destroying the lake at Khasra Nos. 552 and 490, for example, would kill the vegetation around it and would prevent seepage of groundwater which would affect the already low watertable in the area. The people living around the lake would be compelled to travel all the way to the alternative site, in this case allegedly almost 3 km away. Many animals and marine organisms present in the earlier site would perish, and wouldn’t resuscitate by merely filling a hole with water elsewhere. Further, the soil quality and other factors at the alternate site might not be conducive to the growth of the same flora, and the local environment would be altered permanently. The respondents’ reduction of the complex and cascading effects of extinguishing natural waterbodies into mere numbers and their attempt to justify the same through replacement by geographically larger artificial water bodies, fails to capture the spirit of the Constitutional scheme and is, therefore, impermissible.”