Legal

Conservation Action Trust (CAT) takes forward an important part of the legacy of the Bombay Environmental Action Group that Mr Debi Goenka helped to create when he started working with BEAG in 1983. CAT was created to protect forests, wildlife, wetlands and biodiversity.  CAT is an action orientated NGO focused on getting results and change rather than just talking about doing so. Whenever necessary, CAT has taken whatever action is necessary to protect our irreplaceable biodiversity and habitats.

Some of CAT’s matters in the Bombay High Court and Supreme Court of India include protection of mangroves in Mumbai as well as the State of Maharashtra, removal of unauthorized structures and illegal encroachments from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, and the protection of private forests and zudpi jungles. Apart from these forest related matters, CAT is also working to curb air, water and noise pollution and on public transportation issues.

CAT has been working closely with the coastal communities to protect the ecologically fragile coastal areas from the unwanted onslaught that they are being subjected to by builders, industrialists and land grabbers. Some of the notable cases have been against the destruction of 500 acres of mangroves at Malad, for the protection of hundreds of acres of mangroves at Dahisar and the protection of thousands of acres of mangroves at Vikhroli. Given the astronomical land prices in Mumbai, this has been a notable achievement.

CAT legal matters

Public Interest Litigation 87 of 2006 (Mangroves)

Mangroves are evergreen forest found extensively in the estuarine regions where mud-flats are wide and gently sloping. Besides estuaries, they also inhabit the intertidal regions of shallow bays and creeks where the environment is conducive for the growth of mangroves. They are a complete ecosystem that is a conglomeration of several species of flora, fauna and biotic features in an area and their interaction with each other.

The mangroves are valued for its protection and stabilization of low-lying coastal lands and its importance in estuarine and coastal fishery food chains. Mangroves are flood buffers and they also help in stabilizing the climate by moderating temperature, humidity, wind and even waves. They are specially adapted to withstand salinity, wave action, and can grow in poor soils. They actually protect the land from the impact of the sea.

Mangroves in and around Mumbai have undergone massive destruction. As a result the density of mangroves in and around Mumbai has been on a decline. The main reasons for this depletion are reclamation of land for paddy cultivation, salt pan scheme, reclamation of land for building activities and dumping, industrial pollution of the creeks, cuttings of trees for fuel wood etc.
The mangroves have been afforded protection under Category I of the CRZ (Coastal Zone Regulation 1991). They are also entitled protection under the prevailing forest conservation regime, the Maharashtra Private Forest Act 1975, the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and the Maharashtra Felling of Trees (Regulation) Act 1964.
The area under mangroves in Maharashtra was 200 km2 in 1972-75, which reduced to 108 km2 in 1997 but increased to 118 km in 2001. According to MMRDA, the mangrove areas in Mumbai have shown significant increase since 1991. However, this claim is under contention, as the maximum numbers of reclamation have taken place between 1991 and 1997. It is believed that about 70 per cent of Mumbai’s mangroves have been destroyed due to various development activities.

Inspite of all the protection afforded by several Acts, the mangroves continued to face the onslaught hence in order to protect the remaining mangroves in and around Mumbai the Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) filed a Public Interest Litigation No. 87 in 2006 in the Bombay High Court seeking the Court’s intervention to inhibit the destruction of Mangroves.
An order was passed by the Hon’ble High Court on 6th October 2005 in PIL 87 of 2006 that clearly states that:
(i) There shall be a total freeze on the destruction and cutting of mangroves.
(ii) All construction and rubble/garbage dumping on the mangrove areas shall be stopped forthwith.
(iii) Regardless of ownership of the land, all construction taking place within 50 metres
on all sides of all mangroves shall be forthwith stopped.

As per this order an area of 60 sqkms was so identified in and around Mumbai in Phase I for protection to be notified as ‘Protected Forests’. A draft notification was also prepared in January 2007 by the Maharashtra Forest Department and submitted to the Government for notification after getting it approved by the Divisional Commissioner, Konkan.

However instead of notifying the entire area, only about 20 sqkms were notified as “Protected Forests” in a final draft notification. The balance area was not notified as the various authorities sought exemption on the grounds that “mangrove destruction is necessary for development and for prevention of floods”.

As the attempt to justify development continues to dominate the meagre environmental resources, BEAG continues its endeavour to prevent any further destruction to the mangroves as the case continues in the Hon’ble High Court.

Click on the following for orders
PIL 87 of 2006 06.10.2005

PIL 87 of 2006 27.01.2010

Public Interest Litigation 17 of 2006 (Quarrying)

Rampant degradation of natural hills/hillocks was observed in the city of Mumbai due to quarrying. A Public Interest Litigation was filed in 2006 to curb the alarming degradation of hills within the limits of Mumbai. An order dated 11.10.2006 restrained from carrying on the activities ofquarrying, stone crushing and from running ready mix concrete (RMC) plant. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB)was directed to take suitable action, including launching of prosecution against the persons who are engaged in unauthorised quarrying and stone crushing.
More recently, ongoing quarrying and stone crushing activities were observed in the suburban areas of Mumbai. This, being against and in violation of the High Court order dated 11.10.2006. In view of this a Committee has been appointed who will look into the violation and degradation observed and submit a Report to the High Court.

Click on the following for orders

PIL 17 of 2006 11.10.2006

PIL 17 of 2006 10.08.2016

Public Interest Litigation 17 of 2002 (Private Forests)

A Public Interest Litigation was filed for preservation and protection of ‘Private Forest’and for a direction against the State Government to implement and enforce the provisions of the laws with respect to private forests including the Maharashtra Private Forests (Acquisition) Act 1975, the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 and the Indian Forests Act 1927.

This was filed more particularly to seek direction for the State Government to commence the work of updation of the land records and Record of Rights in the State of Maharashtra. This, as it was observed that the forest lands and forest cover in the State of Maharashtra have been deteriorating since the past several years and are considered inadequate.

Private forests are essential for the regeneration and protection of the depletive forest in the State and vital for the protection of the ecological balance. The PIL dealt with the issue of nearly 3 lacs hectors of private forest land in the State being the subject matter of the Private Forest Act, yet, the possession of these lands was not taken.
The above Petition was allowed by this Hon’ble Court by a judgment and order dated 22nd June 2005, directing the State Government to complete the updation of the entire land records as expeditiously as possible and in any event on or before 31st May 2006. Pursuant to this order, action was initiated by the State Government through its respective departments to implement the provisions of the Private Forest Act, the Conservation Act and the Indian Forest Act. An Official Circular was issued by the Revenue and Forest Department dated 14th July 2005 referring to the aforesaid Order of the PIL, stating that it was necessary to record the forest lands in the Record of Rights.

Subsequently, stop work notices were also issued to stop work ongoing in Private Forest areas.

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WP 1957 of 2006 24.03.2008

Writ Petition 1762 of 1999 (Vehicular Pollution)

The main purpose of this petition is to improve the quality of ambient air in Greater Mumbai. CAT is working towards ensuring less of vehicular pollution in the city and implementation of improved norms for the vehicle wherein it is advocating the implementation of Bharat stage IV norm compliant vehicles for various categories of vehicles which are not only fuel efficient but also results into lesser pollution. This will ensure better air quality on Mumbai.

Legal action by Mr Debi Goenka has resulted in all the taxis and auto-rickshaws in the city being converted to CNG, and curbs on heavy vehicles and commercial vehicles that are more than 8 years old entering the city of Mumbai.

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WP 1762 of 1999 17.10.2001

Writ Petition 981 of 1997 (Dahanu)

CAT has intervened as a Petitioner to ensure that the ecologically fragile area of Dahanu Taluka is conserved and also the CRZ Notification dated 19.2.1991 is implemented in this greenest patch of the state of Maharashtra. Dahanu taluka has seen reduction in its Chickoo, coconut, and mango yields. The fish catch has also reduced over the years. This comes as a result of the industrial set up in this area. Mr. Debi Goenka has been regularly raising his concerns regarding these issues as an active invitee to the Dahanu Taluka Environment Protection Authority (DTEPA). His intervention and critiques has led to thorough scrutiny of the project proposals coming before the Dahanu Taluka Environment Protection Authority.

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WP (C) 231 of 1994 31.10.1996

Writ Petition 305 of 1995 (Encroachment in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park)

Mumbai is also home to one of the National Park – the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. This forest area not only provides us with clean air but is also importance source of drinking water for citizens of Mumbai. SGNP also is one of the few remaining and accessible open spaces in the city of Mumbai. However, there is huge pressure on the SGNP due to the encroachments. The encroachment in the SGNP possesses athreat to the forest areas. Depletion of forest resources, wildfires, fragmentation of forest, human-animal conflict are some of the key issues arising due to the encroachment.

Bombay Environment Action Group (BEAG) brought to the notice of the Court that there were large numbers of unauthorised people occupying a vast portion of the land in SGNP. In 2003, Supreme Court passed an order dismissing appeals of the encroachers, residing in the pristine jungles of the SGNP, who therefore were to be moved out of the SGNP.

CAT is working to remove all the illegal structures existing in the SGNP which still pose threat to the National Park. Consequently, Forest Department has undertaken demolition of unauthorised structures and this is being followed by the rehabilitation of the displaced families in the SRA scheme outside the National Park.

CAT has also been instrumental in the closing down of all the illegal quarries around the periphery of the SGNP, shutting down of a Government-owned factory that was located inside the Park, and the rehabilitation of 9,000 families in an SRA scheme outside the National Park. An RCC boundary wall about 30 kilometres in length has also been constructed at the more encroachment prone locations.

This intervention has saved the SGNP from builder mafias and has ensured protection for its wildlife. The legal battle to support Forest Department from the builders and encroachers is ongoing.

Mumbai is a polluted city. It is important for us to remember that what saves us from a Delhi-like situation is the sea breeze that helps to keep the air circulating and the fact that we have this forest, which acts as the lungs of the city.

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WP 305 of 1995 15.09.2003 Encroachments in SGNP

Other (Non CAT orders/judgements)

Writ Petition (Civil) 202 of 1995 (Godavarman order)

As per the Order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) 202 of 1995, (T N Godavarman vs Union of India), all forests as per the dictionary meaning of the word have to be identified as forests, and all no non-forest activity would be permitted on such lands without the prior permission of the Government of India under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. Pursuant to this order, mangroves in Maharashtra have been identified as forests.

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WP (Civil) 202 of 1995 12.12.1996

Samarth Trust and another vs Union of India and others 28.05.2010

This Delhi High Court in its judgement dated 28.05.2010 in Samarth Trust vs. Union of India W.P. 9317 of 2009 had held that:
“11. From the terms of the Notification dated 14th September, 2006 it seems, prima facie, that so far as a public hearing is concerned, its scope is limited and confined to those locally affected persons residing in the close proximity of the project site. However, in our opinion, the Notification does not preclude or prohibit persons not living in the close proximity of the project site from participating in the public hearing – they too are permitted to participate and express their views for or against the project.”

Samarth Trust and another vs Union of India and others 28.05.2010

Samata and another vs Union of India and others 13.12.2013

Notifications and amendments

Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 2011

The objective of the original CRZ Notification was protection and sustainable development of the coastal stretches and marine environment through sustainable coastal zone management practices based on sound scientific principles taking into account the vulnerability of the coast to natural hazards, sustainable livelihood security for local communities, and conservation of ecologically and culturally significant coastal resources.

The 2011 notification will replace the existing Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2008.

Please find the CRZ 2011 on this link

CRZ Notification 2011 (06.01.2011)

GR on District Coastal Zone Monitoring Committee, Maharahstra

EIA Notification, 2006

The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986

The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

Air (Prevention and control of Pollution) Act, 1981

The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974

Maharashtra Private Forests (Acquisition) Act, 1975

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