Shillong: The Meghalaya High Court on Thursday ordered a halt to further construction in or around the Umiam lake before strict norms for such construction and treatment of effluence are put in place.
A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Wanlura Diengdoh said no further construction would be allowed “at least within 1000m from the Highest Flood Level (HFL) of the Umiam lake after several outlets cropped up over the years up to a distance of about 300m from the HFL.
“No future construction in or around the Umiam Lake, at least within 1000m from the HFL, will be allowed before strict norms for such construction and treatment of effluence are put in place, after leaving a no-construction buffer zone of about 500m from the HFL, by the appropriate authorities. Both the State and the District Council should ensure compliance with such direction,” the Court ordered.
A joint inspection was conducted by the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) along with the State Pollution Control Board and it was revealed that seven establishments constructed buildings within 300m of the HFL of the Umiam Lake. Several other buildings are under construction.
According to the KHADC, some form of permission has been obtained by each of the aforesaid entities or the persons in control thereof from the local authorities.
“In some cases, permissions have also been obtained from the State Pollution Control Board, but it does not appear that there may have been any law in force pertaining to the extent of the construction, the nature of construction or any limitations or regulation in such regard,” the KHADC informed the Court.
However, the Court ruled that even if an establishment is found to have made the construction with some form of permission, “strict conditions need to be imposed” to ensure that the cleanliness of the water below or the aesthetics of the surroundings are not adversely affected.
“It does not appear that there may have been any law in force pertaining to the extent of the construction, the nature of construction or any limitations or regulation in such regard,” the bench observed.
With regard to the several metal containers, which are intended to be run as commercial kiosks or establishments for vending eatables, that have come up blocking a substantial portion of the longest viewing point of the Umiam Lake, the Court directed the KHADC and the State Pollution Control Board will be guided by the larger public interest and the uncompromising need to ensure the cleanliness of the water rather than the pecuniary or commercial interest of the relevant establishment.
“A well thought-out designated area for such purpose may be identified with appropriate facilities for dealing with the garbage and effluence that may be generated and so that there is no possibility of the same seeping down to the water below,” the Court said, adding that further construction activities around the Umiam Lake should be kept in abeyance till a more detailed report in terms of this order
is obtained from the KHADC and the State Pollution Control Board.