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Tuesday, July 31, 2001

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Kolleru lake, a sanctuary: court

By Our Legal Correspondent

HYDERABAD, JULY 30. A Division Bench of the A. P. High Court, comprising the Chief Justice, Mr. Satyabrata Sinha, and Mr. Justice V. V. S. Rao, on Monday upheld the notification issued in October, 1999 declaring the Kolleru fresh water lake area, spread across West Godavari and Krishna districts, a sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act. The Bench directed the Government to ``bring back the lake to its pristine glory.''

The Bench was dismissing a batch of writ petitions filed by the Kolleru Fishermen and Small-Scale Farmers Association and other organisations challenging GO MS120 issued in October, 1999. Some writ petitions were filed complaining that the Government was not taking steps to stop pollution of the lake due to discharge of effluents from industrial units and untreated drainage from municipalities.

Fishermen and small-scale farmers said that all their activities will have to come to an end and their livelihood was lost due to the notification. The Bench made it clear: ``wet eco system, in our opinion, cannot be allowed to be exploited to the detriment of people at large for temporary gains.'' The Bench dealt with the contention that the notification was ultra vires, and said that the Government had the powers to issue the notification.

The Bench took into consideration the fact that the Pollution Control Board had reported increased alkaline level in the lake water and the international conventions signed by the Governments to protect the wildlife habitats.

The Bench directed the Government to adhere to the standards laid down by the Ministry of Environment regarding the lakes and effluents. It gave a categorical finding that no pisci, aqua or shrimp culture be permitted within Kolleru lake sanctuary except the traditional activities mentioned in the notification. It also directed removal of encroachments in the lake area for free flow of water.

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