The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court has directed a court-appointed development body to approach the Wetland Authority to notify the Lonar Crater lake in Maharashtra as a wetland and to ensure its preservation, conservation and also sustainable management.

The lake in Lonar town of Buldhana district was created more than 50,000 years ago due to a meteorite impact.

The HC had last year directed the state government to appoint 'Lonar Crater Lake Development Authority' for preservation of the water body.

A Division Bench of Justice Sunil Shukre and Justice Anil Pansare on Thursday, while hearing a petition filed by one Kirti Nipankar, who has raised concern over the change in colour of the lake and its conservation, asked the HC-appointed committee to approach the Wetland Authority for notification of the Lonar Crater lake as a wetland.

The authority has been established under the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017. A wetland tag will help in better conservation and protection of the lake. The oval-shaped Lonar Lake, the mean diameter of which is around 1.2km, is a popular tourist place, which also attracts scientists from across the world.

The water body was in news in 2020 after its colour turned pink, which had not only surprised locals, but nature enthusiasts and scientists as well.

The HC took note of observations made by Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and Member-Secretary, Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board Nagpur, Praveen Shrivastav who pointed out that there is a Wetland Authority, whose duties and functions are to identify eligible water bodies as wetlands and notify them so.

Shrivastav said that once the Lonar lake is notified as a wetland, all necessary regulations will follow and that could go a long way in the efforts being made for preservation and conservation and also sustainable management of the water body.

"We direct the committee to consider the suggestions given by PCCF Shrivastav and move the concerned authority for notification of the Lonar Crater Lake as wetland, if it has not been notified so as yet", the Court ordered.

"We request the committee to take into consideration the suggestions given by the bio-diversity board through its Chairman or Member-Secretary regarding making of a plan for conservation and preservation of the Lonar Crater Lake," the Bench said.

It was also brought to the Court's notice that slum-dwellers near the lake have still not been shifted to an alternate accommodation made available to them.

"If this is so, we do not think that it would be right on the part of the Municipal Council, Lonar, to not take any coercive action against the slum-dwellers. If the alternate accommodation has been made available to slum-dwellers, the slum dwellers, who are basically encroachers on public land, cannot refuse to accept it on the spacious ground that the accommodation is not suitable for a bigger family," the Bench said.

The HC directed the Lonar Municipal Council to take steps for removal of the slums around the lake and for rehabilitation of their occupants at the alternate site within six weeks from the date of the order.

With PTI inputs