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HC imposes ban on reclamation or construction on wetlands in Maharashtra

In a far-reaching order, the Bombay High Court has declared a complete ban on both the reclamation of and construction on wetlands in Maharashtra

Acting on complaints that no action was being taken against encroachments, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday declared a complete ban on reclamation of wetlands in Maharashtra and also put a halt to construction activities in the wetland areas of the state.

The order was passed by a bench headed by Justice V M Kanade, which was hearing a PIL filed by an NGO -- Vanshakti.


Maharashtra's wetlands get protection.  

The bench also directed Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and the Collectors of Thane, Mumbai Suburban District and Mumbai City to file reports within four weeks on the alleged violations in the wetland areas of the State.

The PIL alleged destruction of wetlands in suburban Malwani, Dahisar, Vasai, Esselworld, Oshiwara, Kanakia Nagar in Mira Road, Kasheli in Thane and Palm Beach Road area in Navi Mumbai.

The PIL said despite a HC order four months ago, the police and civic bodies had failed to take stringent action on complaints to relating to alleged destruction of mangroves and wetlands in at least 14 locations in and around Mumbai including Thane, Diva, Mumbra, Vasai and Mira Bhayander.

The government had told the court earlier that an authority for monitoring wetlands in the state would be constituted soon.

However, the NGO's Counsel, Gayatri Singh argued that the State had not come out with a time bound programme as when such an authority would be formed.

The State had informed earlier that an expert committee had confirmed in a report that wetlands in neighbouring Vasai were being destroyed due to construction.

The NGO alleged that police did not heed the complaints in this regard. The government argued that police were not empowered to take action in these matters but State Pollution Control Board was.

The PIL said that the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010, were not being implemented in Maharashtra despite India being a signatory to the Ramsar Convention. It also stated that the wetland atlas prepared by the Indian Scientific Research Organisation was not recognised by the state.

The ban is likely to have an impact on implementation of important infrastructure projects:

1. Coastal Road: It is proposed to run along west coast of the city
2. Additional bridge on Thane creek: It will be constructed parallel to existing Vashi bridge 
3. BKC-Sion connector: It will pass over Mithi River
4. Ghatkopar-Koparkhairane Link road: The project will see destruction of significant amount of mangroves
5. Haji Ali-Worli Sea Link: It is a part of the Western Freeway
6. Revas-Karanja Bridge: It will be a sea bridge over the Arabian sea
7. Sewree-Worli elevated road: It does not pose any threat to mangroves
8. Naigaon and Bhayendar bridge over Vasai Creek: This bridge will need removal of mangroves

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