Residents of Bengaluru apartment complexes have alleged that officials of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) are serving them “illegal and unnecessary” notices just for the purpose of collecting bribes since June.
The residents further allege that refusal to pay the bribes has put them at risk of losing their power and water connections.
Apartment federations under the aegis of Bangalore Apartments’ Federation (BAF) have now joined hands to fight it out in court.
“Harassment is now reaching unimaginable proportions with KSPCB issuing orders to BESCOM to disconnect electricity for law-abiding apartments, and forcing the residents to settle matters if electricity is not to be disconnected,” Srikanth Narasimhan, General Secretary of BAF, said.
The notices served are mostly to do with seeking environmental consent from the State Pollution Control Board even though rules laid down by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Union Ministry of Environment & Forest (MOEF) clearly state that such consent from the KSPCB is not needed for residential buildings having built-up area of upto 1,50,000 sq. metres.
Srikanth added, “Even more bizarrely, KSPCB has been stipulating illegal, irrelevant and impossible conditions as part of their consent mechanism to further harass residents. For example, they are mandating older apartments to put up organic waste converters (OWCs), which is not mandatory.”
Similarly, KSPCB notices mandate installation of dual piping, which is not mandated by any law, but KSPCB is insisting on as part of its consent mechanism.
Some apartments which already have underground sewage connections have also been issued notices, asking them to install sewage treatment plants (STPs). This comes even as the state government went back on a notification of making STPs mandatory for apartments consisting of less than 20 units, in the face of protests.
Bibartan Roy, President of the Vaishnavi Rathnam Apartment in Yeshwantapur (who has received one of those notices), said, “The Pollution Board is harassing us unnecessarily. Our STP was ready by 2012 and the STP regulations are exempted for all units built before 2016. There is no reason for them to not renew the licence of the STP. On the basis that the regulations do not apply on STPs built before 2016, we are not required to have dual piping and other things.”
Srinidhi, another resident, said even BESCOM officials suggested that they settle the matter with consultants proposed by the KSPCB.
Other apartments which have got such “frivolous” notices are also mulling legal options.
KSPCB Chairman Lakshman could not be reached for comment.