District collector failed to act in spite of earlier directive of the National Green Tribunal on the lake which is one of the few sources of water in drought-prone Bundelhand
The Bhopal bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday granted five days to the Chhatarpur district collectorate to take action against shops and other illegal encroachments on the Kishore Sagar Lake, one of the water bodies in the drought-affected Chhatarpur town of the Bundelkhand region. On September 18, the tribunal had issued a warrant against the district collector Masood Akhtar for not taking action and responding to the court notice on complaints of encroachments choking the water body.
Kishore Sagar lake is one of the tanks built during the reign of Bundela kings, which stored rain water and met the needs of the residents of Chhatarpur town. According to the petition filed before NGT by Chhatarpur resident Brij Lal Mishra, a former Madhya Pradesh government official, the lake has been encroached by various commercial establishments over the past 25 to 30 years. “Despite complaints to the district collector, the lake was allowed to be encroached. There are about 400 buildings which have encroached on the lake area,” said Mishra. Mishra had approached the tribunal earlier this year, following which a bench comprising of Justice Dalip Singh and expert member P S Rao asked the collector to take action against the illegal construction.
In 2011, a sub divisional magistrate's committee found that illegal buildings had encroached up to 0.282 hectares (ha) of the eight ha lake area. The committee's report was submitted as evidence during the proceedings of the tribunal. It said that among commercial and public establishments, there are 10 toilets which have been constructed by the local municipal body as Sulabh Sauchalay. The committee had recommended immediate action against the encroacher. “However, no such action was taken by the administration,” alleged Mishra in his petition.
District collector Akhtar was not available for comments. According to the counsel for state government, S K Verma, the tribunal has asked the collector to submit the action-taken report by September 30. “There is a stay on any new construction, while collector has been asked to assess the complaints and carry out the directive of the court,” added Verma. The tribunal bench had directed the collector to demolish any structure which encroaches on the catchment area.
According to Central Groundwater Board, Chhatarpur has 143 tanks or lakes which irrigates and supplies water to a catchment area of 36 sq km. Being a chronic drought-prone area, the district faces acute water crisis during the dry season. The petition points out when most tanks or ponds dry up, it is Kishore Sagar lake and few other lakes that meet the needs of the people in dry season.