Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, 18 September 2018
The court was responding to multiple pleas filed by environmentalists.
Mangrove protection in Maharashtra got a boost on Monday as the Bombay high court (HC) said all mangroves in the state are to be declared as protected or reserved forests, including those on land belonging to planning authorities like the City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) and Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA).
WHAT HC ORDER STATES:
- All mangroves in Maharashtra are to be declared as protected forests or reserved forests, including CIDCO and MMRDA land
- All mangroves are to be treated as CRZ (coastal regulation zone)-I
- If the area of mangrove patch is more than 1,000 metre square, the 50-metre buffer zone is also to be treated as CRZ I
- No construction or dumping will be allowed
- Satellite mapping is to be carried out every 6 months
- Only compound wall can be constructed on the landward side of 50 metres for protection
- Violators will be prosecuted under section 15 of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA)
- In cases where mangroves have been destroyed, restoration is to be carried out
- CCTV cameras are to be installed in vulnerable areas
- The government will issue a directive under section 154 of MRTP (Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices) Act to all planning authorities, requiring them to mark the mangroves and the 50-metre buffer zone in the Development Plans and the Regional Plans
- In case of privately-owned mangroves, the government can exercise powers under section 25 of the Private Forests Acquisition Act
- Police and private guards also to protect mangroves.
According to Monday’s judgment, mangroves across the state must be mapped every six months using satellites and all mangroves in Maharashtra will be identified as coastal regulation zone-I, including the 50-metre buffer zone for areas with more than 1,000 sq metres of mangroves. Destruction of mangroves and dumping of debris remains prohibited in these areas.
If mangroves are cut or destroyed, the state government must take action under section 15 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986. Restoration activities have to be carried out immediately after action has been taken.
The court was hearing petitions filed to curb the destruction of mangroves. One of them was filed in 2004 by Debi Goenka, executive trustee of Conservation Action Trust, then known as Bombay Environment Action Group.
“This order strengthens mangrove protection in Maharashtra. It also ensures the state will implement it,” said Goenka, welcoming the order.
The state will issue a directive under section 154 of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act that all planning authorities will identify mangrove areas as mangroves, including the 50m buffer zone, in the state urban development department’s development plan (DP) and regional plans.
“Once it is shown in the DPs, there is no question for tampering. This however was misuse and tampering in the coastal zone management plan maps,” said Goenka. “The court also directed that CCTV cameras to be installed in vulnerable areas. Compound wall can be constructed on the landward side of 50 metres of mangrove areas, and police and private guards can protect mangroves as well.”