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Bhopal Lake Conservation: Complete timeline from NGT's order to BMC's action

Explore the Bhopal Lake Conservation issue: learn about the decision, the compliance, and the impact on the local community.

By Shishir Agrawal
New Update
bhadbhada jhuggi demolition

On Wednesday, February 21, about 386 houses in Bhopal's Bhadbhada Colony were razed by Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC). This action was taken by the city’s Municipal Corporation to comply with a decision given by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in July 2023. 

What is the Bhopal Lake Conservation Case?

On 08th September 2020, a PIL was filed before the NGT by a law student, Arya Srivastava, regarding the conservation of the Upper Lake. In this petition, it was said that there are encroachments in the form of concrete structures in the catchment area up to 50 meters from the banks of Upper Lake (Bada Talab) of Bhopal. This includes some pucca and some kutcha construction works. Taking cognizance of the matter, the tribunal sent a notice to the concerned government institutions. However, there is no mention of agencies in this order.

Bhopal's Bhadbhada slum from where encroachment was removed

Events: NGT order on Bhopal lake conservation case

In the next hearing held on June 10, 2021, the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board said that there is a slum (Bhadbhada Colony) near Bhadbhada Bridge in the southern part of the Upper Lake. This colony comes in the catchment area of the lake. On this, the tribunal ordered the formation of two separate committees. The order to form one of the committees was given to the Bhopal Collector. The committee formed by the Collector included one member each from Revenue, BMC and State Wetland Authority. They were instructed to restrict the lake and identify the encroachers.

The Collector, Commissioner (BMC) and Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board were included in the second joint committee formed by the tribunal. Its objective was to identify anything/one polluting the reservoirs of Bhopal. Also, the Municipal Corporation was asked to prepare a report on a total of 8 points related to Bhopal Lake conservation including the total number of sewage treatment plants, the amount of water used by the city, and the total amount of treated water (reservoirs).

In the hearing held on July 15, 2021, it was said that Bhadbhada Colony was visited by the committee three days before the hearing. A notice was also given by BMC to the local people regarding the encroachment found on the spot. Besides, during this hearing, the committee also filed its replies on the other 8 points.

In the next hearing on February 16, 2022, the tribunal was told by the lawyer representing BMC that there are a total of 227 encroachments in the catchment area of the lake. But, no steps were taken by the administration, including both the District Collector and BMC, to remove these encroachments. Rather, every department tried to shift its responsibilities to each other.

On February 28, 2022, the case was transferred to a bigger bench of six members. Now, apart from Bhoj Wetland, the matter of conservation of Nawab Siddiqui Hasan Khan Pond, Motiya Pond and Munshi Hasan Pond was also added to this case. During this time it was said that untreated biomedical waste and sewage water were being released into all these reservoirs. Therefore, the Tribunal ordered the State Pollution Control Board to propose environmental penalties to the polluters. Apart from this, acting on the order of the tribunal, BMC also imposed penalties on 41 hospitals. The corporation has not been able to recover it till now.

Apart from Bhoj Wetland, the matter of conservation of Nawab Siddiqui Hasan Khan Pond, Motiya Pond and Munshi Hasan Pond was also added to this case.

Administration helpless in removing encroachment

‘Action taken reports’ were sought from BMC several times by the tribunal on illegal encroachment. BMC's lawyer admitted several times that no action has been taken by the corporation to remove the encroachment. On February 28, 2022, the Tribunal ordered the Chief Secretary of the state to hold a meeting with all the concerned departments and formulate a detailed policy to preserve the reservoirs and free them from encroachment.

Commenting on this on 6 December 2023, the tribunal said,

“If the administration is unable to remove the encroachment on state property, we will wait for the day when the mob will capture the official residence and office of the administration. Because they have no house to live in.”

The administration helped the protest by the local group responsible for not being able to remove the encroachment. However, the tribunal termed this argument as 'eyewash'.

After the tribunal's comment during the last hearing on the corporation’s inability to remove the encroachment, on Monday, February 19, these residents of Bhadbhada Colony were given notice by the BMC to vacate the place by Tuesday evening. When people didn’t leave, then the process of forcibly removing the encroachment commenced on Wednesday.

From Wednesday to Saturday, BMC demolished all the houses except a mosque and a temple. The local administration made arrangements for the displaced families at a rehabilitation centre near Jawahar Chowk, about 4.5 km from Bhadbhada Colony.

Bhadbhada demolition case explained
People carrying leftover household items in municipal vehicles.

TT Nagar Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Munawwar Khan said,

“The local people have been given 3 options for rehabilitation. Most of the people have been assisted by Rs 1 lakh. Apart from this, there is an option to give a plot in Chandpur and the remaining people will be given accommodation in Malikhedi and Kal Kheda under PM Awas.”

All these options have their limitations which we address in the other article.

What has been done so far for the conservation of lakes?

In 1989, the Madhya Pradesh government started the conservation of lakes by removing weeds from the lakes through 'Sarovar Hamari Dharohar'. Madhya Pradesh government has also made an integrated plan for the conservation and management of lakes. From 1989 to 1992, the government also spent Rs 16.5 million in the form of grants in aid. Later, a soft loan of 7.055 billion yen was also taken by the Japan Bank for International Corporation (JBIC) as external funding.

But a former member associated with the State Wetland recalls this project and says that only 'eyewash' was done by the administration in the name of conservation. He says,

“The project included things like de-silting, de-weeding, sewage management, demarcation and catchment area protection. But none of this was done well. Also, their post-project management was poor due to which this problem persists even today.”

The work of removing encroachment by the corporation continued on Saturday, 24th February.

Dr. Pradeep Nandi, Director General of the National Center for Human Settlement and Environment (NCHSE) says,

“People come and settle in slums and later they are given leases. But before constructing big buildings, approval from BMC and Country Town Planning is required. Then the question should be to the authorities how did they allow construction in the catchment area?”

According to an estimate, 15 million litres of sewage enter Bhopal's Upper Lake every day from 14 drains. It not only pollutes it but also affects the biological diversity here. In such a situation, it is very important to make a systematic plan for the conservation of the lake and implement it effectively.

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