Protection of rivers, water bodies fundamental duty of State: Kerala HC

Kochi, Jul 25 (PTI):
Protection of rivers and other water sources is the fundamental duty of the state as well as the concerned local bodies with whom they are vested, the Kerala High Court has said. The observation came while directing the Kerala government and three municipalities of Kottayam to take steps to maintain purity of water of the ‘Meenachil’ river there and remove all encroachments from the riverbank. “Protection of rivers and other water sources are the fundamental duties of the State as well as the concerned local bodies, to whom they are vested,” a bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly said. The bench also directed the state and the local bodies to carry out periodical inspections, once in three months, and submit a report to the District Collector of Kottayam. With the direction, the bench disposed of the plea by an organisation of a group of persons who, in their plea, claimed to be interested in safeguarding the river and protecting it from encroachments by adjacent landowners.
According to the petitioners, they had initially requested the District Collector and the Survey Deputy Director to conduct survey and to re-fix boundaries of the Meenachil river in light of the revenue records and to evict encroachment if any.
However, the Survey Deputy Director directed the petitioner organisation to approach the Taluk offices and complete the survey by paying the expense from their pockets.
Terming the direction as “highly illegal”, the petitioner organisation contended it was the duty of the state and local authorities to conduct survey and fix boundaries of the river and preserve it from all kinds of encroachments.
Though it is the primary duty of the Local Self Government Institutions, to protect the river and keep it clean, adequate funds are not provided in the plan fund, they alleged.
The municipal bodies, in their defense, told the bench that steps have been taken to address the grievances raised in the plea.

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