New Delhi: The Delhi government on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that it has taken steps to rejuvenate 201 water bodies in the national capital, and earmarked such pilot projects in two areas. Its submission followed a report, filed earlier by the court-mandated monitoring committee on sealing of unauthorised constructions in Delhi, which had said that several water bodies in the national capital had dried up and were being encroached upon. The government told a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur, S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta that they have taken steps to tackle the issue and would get desired results in a pilot project.
Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, assisting the top court as amicus curiae in the matter, said a total of 1,011 water bodies have been identified but the Delhi government has talked about the rejuvenation of only 201. He said,
They have not said anything about 910 water bodies. No timeline has been given in the affidavit filed by the Delhi government. Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has not filed an affidavit in this regard. Delhi government’s affidavit is as vague as it can be and should not be accepted.
The counsel representing the Delhi government said that they have identified 201 water bodies in the first step. “We cannot take 1,000 plus water bodies at one go. It is not practical. We are making a beginning. The whole object is to rejuvenate all the water bodies,” he said.
During the hearing, the bench asked whether the special task force (STF), which was constituted on April 25 following the court’s order to oversee enforcement of laws on illegal constructions here, was doing any work. “They (STF) have not given any report to us,” the bench said, adding, “This is rather unfortunate”.
The court said STF was supposed to file a report every 15 days. The counsel appearing for Delhi Development Authority said that STF has prepared a report and they would file it in the court in the next few days. The bench also dealt with the issue of other courts and state consumer forums entertaining petitions on sealing issue. The bench said, “We may reiterate that no courts or tribunals will entertain these matters till this is pending before this court.”
On the issue of encroachment of forest land in Delhi, the bench asked forest department to file a fresh status report. The bench also asked the DJB to file an affidavit on the issue of water bodies and said the board should indicate the steps taken to prevent a flow of sewage into water bodies. The bench has posted the matter for hearing on January 9 next year.
The apex court had earlier taken serious note of the encroachments in Delhi and had said it was a “matter of great distress” that 2,280.43 kilometres of roads, streets and footpaths were encroached upon in the national capital. The observation by the bench had come after it was informed that 844.33 km, 811.01 km and 601.2 km of encroached roads and streets were cleared by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and those in South and East Delhi respectively as on August 31.
The top court is dealing with the issue related to the validity of the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 and subsequent legislation which protect unauthorised construction from being sealed.
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