HC orders total freeze on destruction of mangroves

Workers trim mangroves at the Sewri mudflats for the Sewri-Nhava Sheva Trans Harbour Link.

Workers trim mangroves at the Sewri mudflats for the Sewri-Nhava Sheva Trans Harbour Link.   | Photo Credit: Vivek Bendre

Says all construction within 50 metres shall be stopped

The Bombay High Court on Monday said that the State cannot permit destruction of mangroves for private, commercial or any other use unless the court finds it necessary for the public good or in public interest. A Division Bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Riyaz Chagla said, “The State is duty-bound to protect and preserve mangroves.”

The Bench has directed the State to constitute a committee headed by a divisional commissioner within one month. The committee shall be responsible for conservation of mangroves, and for restoration of reclaimed mangrove area. It shall hold regular meetings, the minutes of which shall be made available in the public domain. The Principal Secretaries of Environment, Revenue and Forest departments shall be in charge of ensuring total compliance with the court order.

The Bench said, “There shall be a total freeze on the destruction and cutting of mangroves in the entire State. Dumping of rubble/garbage/solid waste on the mangrove areas shall be stopped forthwith. Regardless of ownership of the land having mangroves and the area of the land, all constructions taking place within 50 metres on all sides of all mangroves area shall be forthwith stopped. That area shall be kept free of construction except construction of compound wall/fencing for its protection.”

The court said the destruction of mangroves offends citizens’ fundamental rights under Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution. “As per Article 21, 47 (duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health), 48A (protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wild life) and 51 A g (to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures), it is a mandatory duty of the State and its agencies and instrumentalities to protect and preserve mangroves,” it said.

The court said that no development permission shall be granted by any authority of the government in an area under mangroves. It said all mangrove land will fall in the Coastal Region Zone (CRZ) I as per the notifications of 1991 and 2001. Any violation will attract penal provision.

It directed the State to carry out satellite mapping of mangrove cover, and install CCTV cameras and barricades to keep a check on it. The government shall also create a grievance redressal mechanism for citizens to report destruction/removal of mangroves, it said.

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