K. A. Y. Dodhiya, Hindustan Times, 18 September 2018
The Bombay high court on Monday said mangroves are a fundamental right of citizens and it is the responsibility of the state to preserve mangrove areas under the Environment Protection Act.
The Bombay high court (HC) on Monday said mangroves are a fundamental right of citizens and it is the responsibility of the state to preserve mangrove areas under the Environment Protection Act.
The bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Riyaz Chagla said the “destruction of mangroves offended the fundamental rights of the citizens and hence it was a mandatory duty of the state and its agencies and instrumentalities to protect and preserve the mangroves.”
It has directed the state government to take over 2,824 hectares of mangrove across Maharashtra, including those on private land and land owned by planning authorities (like City and Industrial Development Corporation), within a period of 18 months. The judgement is significant since approximately 10,200 hectares of mangroves in private forests are yet to gain protected status.
Since 2005, the state has replanted 541 hectares of mangroves and as of 2016, the state had notified 15,087.6 hectares of mangrove areas as reserved.
While passing the 83-page judgement in the public interest litigation filed by the Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) in 2004, the bench ordered “a total freeze in the cutting of mangroves” and said that “dumping of garbage and solid waste [in mangrove areas] should be stopped forthwith.” The court has directed the government to undertake second phase of satellite mapping of mangroves along the western coastline of Maharashtra within six months. Justice Oka also said, “All mangroves will come under the Coastal Regulation Zone – I area and will be regulated as per the CRZ laws. The buffer zone for mangroves measuring more than 1000 square meters would also be under CRZ norms.”
The landmark judgement further directed the state to form a committee within a month that would be responsible for the preservation and conservation of mangroves and restoration of reclaimed mangrove areas. The committee is “to meet regularly and the minutes of the meetings were to be uploaded in public domain.” The judgement said that the principal secretaries of the environment, revenue and forest department would be in-charge of compliance of the above orders and oversee the working of the committee. The state must “anticipate and attack causes and consequences of degradation of mangroves.”
For the general public, the court ordered that a grievance redress mechanism – a dedicated toll free number, messaging system and website – be set up so that complaints regarding the destruction of mangroves may be lodged easily. The confidentiality of the complainant should be ensured by the state, according to the judgment.
Contempt petitions pertaining to the destruction of mangroves were not disposed of and the court said they would be heard later along with any other motions that were pending pertaining to the issue of mangroves.