CUTTACK: The Orissa high court on Thursday directed the state government to formulate a law to protect water bodies in the state within two years.Taking serious note of the dying water bodies in the state, especially ponds and historical tanks, a division bench of B P Das and M M Das also directed the state government to ensure that the existing ponds did not fall prey to land grabbers.
The high court gave the direction while adjudicating a PIL on depleting water bodies in Cuttack. The PIL had raised the point that the city, which once had more than 1,400 tanks and water bodies, was hardly left with 200 now. The court observed that protection of natural water bodies and ponds is akin to honouring the most basic of fundamental rights, the right to life, which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
"Earlier, tehsildars were permitted to clear such applications for conversion of Jalasaya kisam land. In order to check illegal conversions, the high court has directed the state government to form a seven-member committee consisting of environmentalist, district collector and other district officials. The committee will thoroughly scrutinize applications seeking conversion of Jalasaya kisam land to homestead purposes before giving its nod," said Pravat Das, amicus curie in the case.
He further said the committee would also conduct a survey as how many unauthorized buildings or structures in the city have been constructed over Jalasaya kisam land and would take stringent action against the violators. The committee would also ensure measures for renovation and restoration of the ponds, said Das.