The Bombay high court on Monday directed the state government to set up a redressal mechanism within eight weeks to take quick action on complaints on the destruction of wetlands.
The division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Amjad Syed felt the need to create a grievance redressal mechanism after noting major violations of the environmental provisions and rules that were reported from Mumbai Suburban and Thane districts, where a large number of complaints about destruction of wetlands were reported.
It, therefore, directed the state government to set up the mechanism so as to enable citizens to lodge complaints about destruction of wetlands through a toll-free number or by sending WhatsApp messages .
The bench also directed the government to constitute a committee headed by revenue commissioner of Konkan division and comprising local police and civic officials, (Maharashtra Pollution Control Board) to implement the court’s orders regarding the protection and restoration of the wetlands.
It has further directed tehsildars of respective talukas and senior police inspectors, to take action on the complaints received through the mechanism.
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by Vanashakti Public Trust raising grievance about the lack of action against unscrupulous builders who were illegally reclaiming the lands and carrying on construction after dumping debris on wetlands and mangrove areas in flagrant violation of the rules and provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
The directive came after the counsel for the petitioner organisation, senior advocate Gayatri Singh, pointed out numerous instances of violations of the earlier court order for preserving wetlands, and submitted that it was impossible for the petitioner body to monitor wetlands and continue to point out specific individual instances to the court.
Acting on the PIL, on October 14, 2013, another bench of the court directed the urban development department to issue circulars to all civic bodies asking them not to grant permission for reclaiming wetlands or allow any constructions on the reclaimed ones without leave of the high court.
The petitioner body has also filed a contempt petition saying that despite specific orders from the court, wetlands were being reclaimed and mangroves were being destroyed by unscrupulous elements at several places in Mumbai Suburban and Thane districts.