The Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court (HC) on Monday passed a slew of directives to protect and preserve the 113-hectare Lonar Crater Lake in Buldhana, after it turned pink, owing to a rise in the PH (acidity) and salinity levels of lake water, was reported earlier this month.
During a special sitting on Monday, the HC directed four senior lawyers, including senior advocate CS Kaptan (counsel for petitioner Anand Parchure), state pollution control board’s standing counsel Ravi Sanyal and amicus curiae Ashutosh Dharmadhikari, to visit the crater and submit a status report.
The state forest department in its report informed that the samples of the lake water were collected with the help of microbiologists and sent to the Pune-based Agarkar Institute and the Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI). The division bench of justice Sunil Shukre and justice Anil Kilor then directed the experts from NEERI to examine the findings on glass surface on the Lonar Crater Lake and submit its report within four weeks. Agarkar Institute was also asked to submit its report.
The bench also directed the irrigation department to collect the water from the lake on a regular basis as well as from the nearby dam at the upper level and make it available for an explanation for comparative analysis to arrive at the conclusion.
Apart from these bodies, the public works department as well as the Buldhana collector were directed to file a report about the possible alternate site for the Lonar-Kinhi Road passing through the ecologically-sensitive zone. If a possible site cannot be found, the court directed the two authorities to take all necessary precautions.
As far as the non-functioning of a nearby sewage water treatment plant and the delay in shifting of 400 tenements and slum dwellers from the area is concerned, the court directed the departments concerned to expeditiously look into the two issues and submit a report on the same. HC directed the police and administration to take necessary action against open defecation with the help of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The bench also directed PWD to hand over the rest house building in a protected zone to the forest department as early as possible.
The shortage of water supply faced by the Lonar Municipal Council and residents owing to the old supply line was also highlighted before the bench and the council was directed to submit a fresh proposal to Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran within the next 10 days.
HC in previous instances, based on several petitions, issued a number of directions to sort out all difficulties in protecting the lake. However, owing to the sudden colour change, questions were raised over the steps taken for the preservation, prompting the court to convene the special sitting.
The 77.69-hectare lake area is a part of the Lonar sanctuary that expands over 3.66 sqkm. It is famous as the world’s largest basaltic impact crater.