Mustafa Plumber, DNA, 18 September 2018
In a significant order, the Bombay High Court on Monday, held that a land — regardless of its ownership — on which there are mangroves, is a ‘forest’. Also, in view of the applicability of public doctrine, the state is duty-bound to protect and preserve mangroves. This means now there is a total freeze on the destruction and cutting of mangroves, dumping of garbage or any material on mangroves, in the state.
A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Riyaz Chagla while hearing a public interest litigation, filed by Bombay Environment Action Group, said “The destruction of mangroves offends the fundamental rights of the citizens, under Article 21 (Right to Life and Personal Liberty), of the Constitution of India. It is the mandatory duty of the state and its agencies and instrumentality to protect and preserve mangroves.”
Maharashtra has a 720 kilometre-long coast. Out of 55 species of Mangroves in India, 18 are found in Maharashtra. As per claims made in the petition, maximum destruction of Mangroves has occurred in–Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurgh districts. The bench in its order said, “The precautionary principle makes it mandatory for the state and its agencies and instrumentalities to anticipate and attack causes and consequences of degradation of mangroves.”
The court has directed the state to stop forthwith dumping of rubble, garbage, solid waste on mangroves. All constructions taking place within 50 metre on all sides of mangroves, shall be stopped forthwith. The area is to be kept construction-free, except for construction of compound wall, for its protection. No development permission can be issued by any authority in State in respect of any area, under mangroves.
In case of mangroves, area of 1000 square metre and above, 50 metre buffer zone, will also be part of the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ 1), area. While, buffer zone of 50 metre, in case of mangroves area of less that 1000 metre, will not be part of CRZ- 1, but no construction is allowed. Efforts should be taken to restore mangroves, those have been destroyed.
Justice Oka has asked the government to set up a committee headed by Divisional Commissioner, in one month’s time, for preservation and conservation of mangroves, restoration of reclaimed mangroves.
Government has been told to create a grievance redressal mechanism for enabling citizens to lodge complaints of any destruction of mangroves.
The names of the complainants, will have to be masked and complaints can be made, online, by email or in writing. The mechanism has to be started in three months time.
The court has also asked to carry out regular satellite mapping of mangroves and submit its compliance report in court by December.
Justice Oka asked the govt to set up a committee headed by the divisional commissioner, in one month’s time, for preservation and conservation of mangroves.