The Meghalaya High Court has taken up the matter of pollutants infiltrating into the Umïam Lake/Reservoir and Ward’s Lake.
The High Court directed that a meeting of all the concerned departments of the Meghalaya government as well as the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) should be called only for Umïam Lake/Reservoir in order to suggest measures for efficacious resolution of issues plaguing both Umïam Lake/Reservoir and Ward’s Lake.
The matter was taken up by a bench of Chief Justice Biswanath Somadder and Justice HS Thangkhiew on Thursday after a status report following an inspection of the Umïam Lake/Reservoir and Ward’s Lake was placed before the court.
The inspection was carried out after an order the Meghalaya High Court had passed on March 4, 2021.
The court said a bare perusal of the same reveals that not all departments of the state government have specifically complied with the directions of this court as contained in the order on March 4, 2021.
“The report further reveals that a significant amount of public money is being spent by the State Exchequer in order to maintain Umïam Lake/Reservoir and Ward’s Lake with practically little or no accountability. One such instance is the amount of Rs. 19.33 crore having been spent on the Phase II Project.”
“A single wall holds a mountain of garbage. A newly constructed Treatment Plant/Landfill Sanitary Plant is non-functioning at this moment. As it appears from the report, it functions seasonally and that too only during monsoons or when it rains,” the bench of the Meghalaya High Court said.
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“The mouth of the outlet is broken and polluted water from the Treatment Plant/Landfill Sanitary Plant flows directly into the Umïam Lake/Reservoir, polluting not only the lake but also the forest land area through which it passes.”
“A narrow road which is there in existence is practically left unattended by the Public Works (Roads) Department as well as the Forest Department. This narrow road is on the verge of collapse,” the court said.
So far as the Ward’s Lake is concerned, a monthly average of Rs. 10,61,035/- is being spent on account of salary, wages, office expenses, minor works, other charges and also towards the AMRUT Project.
“Yet, the paved pathway, which is normally used by scores of morning walkers/joggers, is never swept clean before they arrive in the morning. The wooden fences are yet to be completed around the perimeter of the lake. Even some of the Shillong Heritage Walk write-ups (prepared by Meghalaya Tourism) are not properly installed at conspicuous spots where from it could have attracted more visibility.”
The surrounding land area of Ward’s Lake remains covered with dead and dry leaves which are not removed on a regular/daily basis by the staff who are responsible for maintaining the Ward’s Lake.
Parts of the lake and its surroundings reveal practically no maintenance or preservation at all.
“Even worse, a photograph, which has been annexed to the report, reveals seepage of water from the septic tank near the parking lot into the lake thereby causing pollutants to infiltrate the lake, which is supposed to be maintained in a pristine condition,” the Meghalaya High Court stated.
Considering the fact that a substantial amount of public money is being spent on a regular basis, the Meghalaya High Court asked learned advocate appearing for the Meghalaya government to consider the contents of the report as well as the observations made hereinabove and call a meeting of all the concerned departments of the state government as well as the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (for Umïam Lake/Reservoir only).
The meeting will suggest measures for efficacious resolution of the issues plaguing both Umïam Lake/Reservoir and Ward’s Lake by filing a comprehensive report in this regard on the next date, the High Court said.
The matter was listed after two weeks.