‘Development & Ecology Must Coexist in Harmony’: Karnataka HC Dismisses PIL Challenging Commercial Use of Kali Riverwater

Prerna Gala

Published on: September 8, 2022 at 18:31 IST

The Karnataka High Court dismissed a public interest lawsuit brought by Dandeli Bachao Andolan Samithi that contested the State’s choice to give up water resources of the Kali River and allow a sugar mill to exploit them for commercial purposes.

A division bench consisting of Justice S Vishwajith Shetty and Acting Chief Justice Alok Aradhe said that a balance between development and ecology must be achieved in order for natural resource use to be consistent with sustainable development principles.

The State and MoEF had given their approval for the construction of the sugar mill, and as a result, the Company and the State’s Public Works Department signed an agreement for the laying of the pipeline for the supply of water from the Kali River.

It was this order that was being contested.

The bench stated that because a sizable amount of sugarcane is cultivated nearby and must be transported at great expense and hardship to the farmers, the establishment of a sugar mill was necessary in the area.

Furthermore, the corporation did not have an unrestricted right to draw water from the river because the demands of Dandeli Town and Haliyal Taluk were taken into account.

According to records, the company was given permission by a number of authorities over a period of time, and the Secretary to the Government, Industries, and Commerce Department, who was appointed to visit the location in response to protests by residents of Village Kesroalli and Dandeli Town, submitted appropriate recommendations.

“It is also evident that residents of Village Hullatti where the factory has been located, has supported the decision of setting up of the factory. The Company has been permitted to draw water from Kali River subject to the condition that water supply to Dandeli and Haliyal is not affected adversely.”

“The aforesaid decision appears to have been taken bonafide in the interest of residents of the locality…The decision has been taken in larger public interest.”

“The sugar factory which has been already set up and functional provides assistance to 50,000 farmers in the backward area of the State who sell sugarcane crops to the factory.”

The State Government’s decision is not demonstrated to be arbitrary or malafide, the court further held.

As a result, the contested decision cannot be changed by the use of judicial review.

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