BBMP not competent to maintain bird reserve, says HC

BBMP City Environment

The PIL was filed by the Yelahanka Puttenahalli Lake and Bird Conservation (YPLBC) Trust in 2020.

Karnataka High Court (HC) passed an order stating that the Bengaluru Bruhat Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is not competent and  has no authority to maintain, manage, and control Puttenahalli Bird Conservation Reserve (PBCR).

The division bench comprising of the Chief Justice of Karnataka, Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum quashed the order by the Government of Karnataka in December 2019, transferring the maintenance of the bird conservation reserve to the BBMP.

The State Government, in 2015, had declared the area as a conservation reserve under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

The HC further adjudged that the Chief Wild Life Warden is competent to ensure control, maintenance, and management of the bird conservation reserve. The forest department will look after the bird conservation reserve in (PBCR).

Krishna Datta, the Managing Trustee of the YPLBC Trust and the lead petitioner of the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) said, “bird conservation reserve has some rules which the BBMP cannot manage. We also looked at the laws related to forests, which mandates control of such reserves by a forest officer. So we went ahead with that premise to file the petition.”

“Another reason for us to file the petition was that the forest department has authority to punish if someone is found guilty of torturing the birds or disturbing the ecology of the reserve. BBMP can punish, but they do not have rules in place [which may result in the acquittal for the guilty]. Officers at the forest department are experts in handling the birds and it only makes sense for them to manage the reserve.”

Earlier, the HC had directed the State Government to justify its decision to hand over the conservation reserve to the BBMP, when the notification of declaring it as a conservation reserve under the Act was already in force.Dr. Yellapa Reddy, an environmentalist said, “If the custodian of the reserve does not maintain it properly, the Honorable HC, has to make such decisions. However, the forest department earlier did not maintain the conservation reserve properly due to lack of funds. Hence, some authority should fund for conservation of the reserve.”

Reddy also urged that the forest department should work in consultation with the Bangalore Environment Trust (BET) and other environment experts to manage the ecology in a better way.

Reddy said, “The quality of underground water is degrading. If they maintain the wet lands and water bodies properly, people will get uncontaminated drinking water. The community is currently suffering from contaminated water. So intervention of the court was necessary.

The court has said that the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board (BWSSB) to ensure appropriate supply of water in the reserve. The HC has also ordered for a survey of the land to check whether it comes under the forest department or the BBMP.