The National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) southern zone bench in Chennai has warned landowners of the imposition of a heavy penalty if they leave their properties unattended, and pave the way for environmental hazards, if garbage, debris, sullage, mud and so on is dumped on them by miscreants.
The tribunal’s judicial member, Pushpa Sathyanarayana and expert member Satyagopal Gorlapati wrote: “Property owners have to ensure that their lands do not fall prey to any fraudulent activity. Unattended properties, particularly those situated in prime locations, do attract the attention of miscreants.”
They said: “It is extremely important to make proper arrangements for the physical safety of the property at least by constructing a boundary wall or by mounting a warning sign board... If it is allowed to be used for any illegal purpose causing social and environmental impact, the owner of the land would be. liable for heavy penalty.”
The observations were made while disposing of an application by the residents of Sai Baba Colony at Virugambakkam in Chennai. The residents had complained of a Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) contractor, engaged for laying stormwater drains, dumping the debris on a vacant plot land in the residential locality.
The residents brought it to the notice of the tribunal that the vacant land, measuring about one acre, actually belonged to Vengeeswara Alagarperumal and Nagathamman Devasthanam. Since the temple lessee had abandoned the property and was not using it for cultivation, it was used by the children in the locality as a playground.
However, ever since the construction of stormwater drainage began in the area, the GCC contractor had begun dumping debris in the vacant plot. As it was causing a huge environmental hazard, the residents sought a direction to have the debris removes forthwith, and for the imposition of environmental compensation on the Corporation and the contractor.
In response to the application, the Corporation conceded the charge levelled against its contractor. The latter, in turn, said, the debris was dumped on the vacant land as a temporary measure since there were restrictions on plying trucks in the city during the day, and therefore the debris could not be taken away immediately to designated dumping yards.
The contractor also said, the debris and the sullage had been removed from the land at Sai Baba Colony after the filing of the application before the NGT. The tribunal recorded the submission and appreciated the efforts taken by the residents in restoring the vacant plot.
Since the land actually belonged to the temple, the bench said, the onus of maintaining it properly would lie on the landowner. If the lessee was not taking care of the property properly, the tribunal directed the Devasthanam to terminate the lease and protect the property by putting it to some better use.