The Madras High Court on Thursday pulled up the Tamil Nadu government over the encroachment of water bodies in its capital city. The court pointed that there was apathy towards this growing menace and that development cannot be permitted at the cost of nature.
"Chennai was once a city of lakes. Where are the lakes now? It is the primary duty of the state to preserve the life source. If a world war happens it would be only for water," a division bench of Justice M M Sundresh and Justice R Hemalatha said.
The court was hearing a plea moved by a resident of Manjavadi village in Dharmapuri seeking action against encroachments along a water stream in the village.
"The government can use the aid of technology in dealing with such issues and laws that were framed several years ago require to be amended," the bench said and adjourned the plea for four weeks for the authorities to file a report.
The court also took note of media reports which referred to how major lakes in the city suffered encroachments even after completion of eco-restoration work.
The bench observed that the government must consider establishing a separate ministry for water conservation and amend existing laws so as to make the officials concerned accountable for such encroachments.
Noting that the authorities who are in slumber must be woken up, the court on its own made departments including home, local administration, PWD (Public Works Department) and Chennai Corporation as respondents and directed them to file a detailed report on the issue.
The court's stand, placing conservation of the environment before development comes at a time when activists and experts across the country are up in arms against the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020.
By August 11, the public is expected to express their views on the notification, which has sparked off controversy. Amongst the problems raised in connection with the notification are its clauses which allow ex post-facto environment clearance, weakening of the public consultation process and removal of a citizen's right to report on violations of environmental laws by the project initiated.
(With inputs from PTI)