Preliminary report of the Amicus Curiae on baolis/stepwells in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, 28/08/2023

Preliminary report of the Amicus Curiae, Swati Mehta in the matter of Priyanshu Gupta Vs State of Madhya Pradesh dated 28/08/2023.

The Original Application was registered by the NGT by taking suo moto cognizance based on a letter petition dated April 12, 2023 pertaining to several water bodies (baolis or stepwells) falling within the jurisdiction of the Indore Nagar Nigam.

The Tribunal in its order, July 31, 2023 had noted that as per the media reports, there were initially 629 baolis within the jurisdiction of the Indore Nagar Nigam and that the same has been reduced to 616 hitherto. The court in its order mentioned an incident that took place on March 13, 2023 at Indore where on a kacha covering ovr a baoli near a temple, some people gathered for worship but met an accident due to collapse of the covering. This resulted in the death of a number of people. Subsequent to the occurrence of the incident on March 13, 2023, the authorities decided to fill up certain baolis by dumping malba therein, which will affect the level of groundwater and will also affect the level of surface water.

The tribunal observed that inaction in preventing the illegal and unauthorized construction over baolis and filling of water bodies by dumping malba is contrary to the environmental laws and will cause damage to the environment. The court took note of the fact that the report of the joint committee could not explain as to how the baolis were closed when they were serving as a water resource to the local inhabitants and also working as a source for recharging the ground water. The Amicus Curiae in her report said that on August 21, 2023 inspection of several baolis was conducted in the presence of officials.

The Amicus Curiae in her report said that many of baolis were filled with malba/boulders but now recharging arrangements were being done to maintain the water level.