The Bombay high court, on Tuesday, sought a reply within four weeks from the Central Ministry of Environment regarding a proposal to convert forest land into non-forest land for the construction of a dam over Kalu river in Murbad, Thane.
Petitioners Shramik Mukti Sanghatna filed a petition in June, challenging the operations started by the government in May 2010.
The government told a division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice GS Godbole that the construction of the dam is crucial for the city’s drinking water problems, among other issues. The government’s lawyer told the court that the city’s population is estimated to reach 3.40 crores by 2031, which calls for measures such as the construction of dams.
The petition challenged the government under relevant sections of the Forest Conservation Act since the dam would engulf over 1,000 hectares of forest land.
The petitioners, who work for the primitive tribals in the area, said the government does not have required permissions for converting forest land into non-forest land.
According to the petitioners, under relevant provisions, the government is supposed to exchange revenue land when they take possession of forest land.
The petitioners’ lawyer said the government is proposing to hand over land in Beed district in place of 999.2 hectares of forests in Thane district.
The state admitted they do not have permission yet, but have filed an application to seek conversion of land before the principal conservator of forests in Nagpur, who in turn will forward the application to a competed authority in Delhi.