Expressing great concern over the deteriorating status of lakes and biodiversity, the High Court of Kerala, while disposing of a batch of writ petitions, has directed the authorities concerned to take stern and prompt action against defaulters.
Such action should be carried out without insisting/ waiting for any court orders/directions, the court said.
Justice Devan Ramachandran was considering a batch of writ petitions concerning illegal encroachments and damages caused to biodiversity as regards Vembanad Lake (in this case).
Highlighting the importance to conserve biodiversity, the Court opined: “Conservation of biodiversity is vital to response to climate change and in the delivery of key ecosystem services like food, flood management, pollination, clean air and water. Conservation includes restoring and enhancing species, populations and habitats and in the optimal sustainable yield in the use of natural resources.”
The court further noted that every citizen of India had a constitutional obligation under Articles 49 and 51A to bring any act of depredation to the ecology or biodiversity to the notice of the competent public authorities who are burdened with a reciprocal obligation to take cognisance of the same and to take appropriate action as is mandated by the various laws and regulations intended for is protection.
Justice Ramachandran highlighted the need and stressed for the conservation of biodiversity and lakes in his judgment in the following lines: “The lotic ecosystem, and in particular freshwater systems, with rivers, lakes, reservoirs, creeks, springs and ponds, as its unexpendable and constitutive components are vital and acme to an environment adequate and suitable for health and well being. It is the primary, if not, the only source for drinking water, ground water re-charging, flood control and all biodiversity, including indigenous flora, fauna and biota. Wildlife habitats, woodlands, wet land, mangroves, etc. are the carbon sinks of the planet which absorb and operate as a receptacle for containment of pollution and creation of environment in which human life can thrive. These systems are important in decimating heat and wave energy, maintaining sufficient oxygenation and to provide for fingerlings and other treasures in the water systems.”
The court expressed strong displeasure on the failure/laches on the part of the authorities concerned to take prompt action to prevent damages to lakes and biodiversity. The court mandated that the authorities concerned (district collector in this case), are duty bound to take apt action in accordance with law, to conserve and protect biodiversity and lakes. Such action, the court added, should be carried out without waiting / insisting for any directions /orders in this regard from the court.
The Court summed up the order as follows;
“This is not merely an adversarial lis. I am concerned about the lakes and the biodiversity that will have to be protected for public good and not allowed to be depredated for private interests. Lakes are the greatest source of water and it is based on this that the entire biodiversity of our nation depends on. It is the statutory duty of the District Collector, as the head of the district, to take action when it is brought to his notice that violations and transgressions are being committed without having to wait for any formal orders from this Court.”
Read the Judgment here.