Permits, Wildlife, Land Use, Standing, Wetlands, Licences, Damages, Civil, Jurisdiction
Kolleru Lake is the largest freshwater lake and is located in Andhra Pradesh. Ecologically it is a wet land ecosystem. It serves as a habitat for migratory birds and supports the livelihood of fishermen and riparian population in the area. The lake was notified as a wildlife sanctuary in November 1999 under India's Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, and designated a wetland of international importance in November 2002 under the international Ramsar Convention. Kolleru, had been encroached, mainly for aquaculture, to such an extent that most of the lake area was highly compartmentalized by 3–4 m high embankments of hundreds of fish tanks that had sprung up in the lake bed. Apart from this the farmers had converted the land use pattern of the lake. This had a lot of impact in terms of pollution leading to even difficulty in getting drinking water for the local people. Sewage inflow from the towns of Eluru, Gudivada and even Vijayawada and industrial effluents, pesticides and fertilizers from the Krishna-Godavari delta region contaminate the lake. By 2006, it was estimated that over 72% of the Sanctuary was encroached upon for unsustainable aquaculture. Despite a Judgment of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh in 2001, upholding the notification of the Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary, the orders of the High Court were not implemented. In this batch of cases the common issue that arises for consideration is the validity of the recommendations made by Central Empowered Committee (for short, 'CEC') in its Report dated 20th March 2006 which concerns implementation of the notification issued by State of Andhra Pradesh dated 04.10.1999 under section 26A of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 whose validity has been upheld by the decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court dated 30th July, 2001 in the case of Dr. T. Patanjali Sastry, President, Environment Centre vs. Chairman, Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board and ors. reported in 2001 (5) ALT 315. The notification above-mentioned seeks to preserve the lake both for the benefit of the migratory birds and to avoid floods. By the impugned recommendations CEC has issued directions for demolition of all fish tanks constructed inside the Kolleru Wild Life Sanctuary in a time bound manner, as indicated therein. CEC has also issued directions prohibiting use or transportation of inputs for pisciculture in the said sanctuary. The basic argument advanced on behalf of the objectors is that acquisition is the basis for issuance of notification/official declaration under section 26A of the said 1972 Ac, consequently, the government should first acquire the rights of the objectors before ordering demolition of the fish tanks/bunds. The apex is of the opinion that having regard to the larger public interest and in view of the fact that the Notification under section 26A has been issued pursuant to the orders of the High Court in the case of Kunapuraju Rangaraju, the Notification issued under section 26A needs to be enforced immediately. Only those who had illegally constructed bunds and who were using harmful manures have been prevented from doing so by reason of the said Notification. If such encroachments are not removed immediately the right of the farmers in the upstream mandals to do cultivation would be in jeopardy, consequently, it is their right to live guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution which is violated. Notification dated 4.10.1999 does not cover the entire area of the lake. Out of 901 sq. kms. of Kolleru lake, an area of 308 sq. kms. alone is notified as Sanctuary. This indicates that the government has balanced the needs of sustainable development with the livelihood of persons surviving on the resources of this lake. The Court upheld the recommendations (and the government Notification they dealt with) since they sought to regulate, public interest and in the interest of ecology, activities, such as aquaculture, pisciculture, prawn culture and shrimp culture (while allowing fishing by traditional methods), to preserve the identity of the lake. Petitions are disposed off.