Vidya, India Today, 18 September 2018
The Bombay High Court today directed the Maharashtra government to take over all mangroves on private lands across the state within a period of 18 months.
The judgment passed today on a bunch of petitions that the court had been hearing since 2005. The Bombay High Court today ruled that destruction of mangroves was in breach of the citizens’ fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The judgment said, “Mangroves cannot be permitted to be destructed by the State for private, commercial or any other use unless the court finds it necessary for public good or interest.” The division bench of Justices AS Oka and Riyaz Chagla also said that the state was duty bound to protect and preserve all mangrove-rich land across Maharashtra.
The bench also prohibited dumping of construction debris or any other waste on the mangrove land.
The judgment came on a bunch of petitions filed by the Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG), and some private individuals from across the state. The pleas had highlighted several instances of rampant destruction of mangroves and wetlands across the state of Maharashtra.
The Bombay High Court has also directed that any destruction of mangroves will invoke penal legal action against violators. The court asked the state government to constitute, within a month, a committee for protection and preservation of mangroves. Such a committee will also be responsible for keeping a check on violations, and ensuring that all directions in the judgment are implemented.
“All development plans in the future will keep in consideration the above judgment, and the state will have to notify all private mangrove land as protected forest land within 18 months from now,” the bench said.
“CCTV shall be installed to keep a check on the cover and barricades must be installed around the mangroves. It shall also create a grievance redressal mechanism for enabling members of the public to lodge complaints about the activity of destruction/removal of mangroves. No development permission shall be granted by any authority of the state government in an area under mangroves. All authorities including the planning shall note that all the mangrove land irrespective of its area will fall in Coastal Region Zone (CRZ) I as per the notifications of 1991 and 2001,” the court added further.
The petitioners had earlier told the court that the existing mangrove cell of the state government had failed to implement the 2005 order, and instead, it had cleared over 3,800 illegal structures on mangrove land. The bench said on Monday that the state will now have to restore to its “original condition”, the mangrove land that had already been destructed.
Debi Goenka, who works with BEAG and was present in court, hailed the judgment as a milestone saying, “Until now there had been a lot of ambiguity in law like the filing of criminal cases, mangrove forests on private lands etc. All these issues of ambiguity have now been settled with this judgement.”