Environment Support Group

A New Chapter in Decentralised Lake Governance in Karnataka: The Karnataka High Court’s Upcoming Order in Environment Support Group v. State of Karnataka (WP No. 817 of 2008)

On 15 June 2021, at 2.25 pm, the Principal Bench of the Karnataka High Court headed by Chief Justice Oka will be making an order that is expected to make significant changes to the lake governance structures of the state.
This will take the form of modifications to the landmark order in ESG’s Lake’s PIL: WP 817/2008, passed back in April 2012.
The Lakes PIL was heard for several years from when it was filed in 2008. The final judgment was delivered on 11 April 2012, directing the State to ensure local communities were involved in lake rehabilitation and management, and their regulation was devolved to district-level lake protection committees.
Importantly, the Justice N K Patil Committee that the Court constituted had provided detailed guidelines based on inputs and participation of BBMP and 8 agencies of the State.
Rather than implement these guidelines and rehabilitate lakes and raja kaluves (canals that interconnect lakes) based on participatory processes, the State preferred to centralize control over lakes, including through the Karnataka Tank Conservation and Development Authority Act 2018.
As the lakes continued to be encroached, polluted, and destroyed, a PIL filed by Citizens Action Group in 2014 (WP No 38401/2014) brought back attention to the manner in which lakes were being neglected, especially by not attending to the health and revival of Raja Kaluves.
ESG impleaded in this PIL in 2019, and worked with all parties under the guidance of the Principal Bench, and brought to fore various threats to the future of lakes, and thus water and ecological securities.
It became apparent then that if lakes had to be protected and rehabilitated sensibly, it needed to be with the involvement of local people in all aspects and processes.
Agreeing with this position, Chief Justice Oka observed that there was a need to recall the order in ESG’s earlier PIL (WP No 817/2008) and build details of public involvement in lake management and rehabilitation. Suggestions were invited, and ESG submitted detailed proposals.
The coming ruling will expand the scope of the prevailing order in WP No 817/2008 and bring public involvement in lake management, rehabilitation, and regulation against its pollution and encroachment.

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