Taking note of the depleting mangrove cover, the Bombay high court on Tuesday directed all authorities concerned with development activities to scrupulously ensure that no permission is granted for construction on mangrove land. The court also said that these authorities would have to get permission from the court to proceed with any projects that affect mangroves.
“No doubt there is an urgent need to protect the fast depleting mangrove cover,” a division bench of justices DD Sinha and VK Tahilramani said.
Mangrove destruction is going on at such a rate that there is hardly anything left, the court noted.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by activist Jagdish Gandhi for protection and restoration of mangroves, making the Mithi river encroachment-free and restoration of water bodies in the state.
The court noted Gandhi’s argument that despite the court’s directions, mangroves in the Mahul Wadala sector, which is under the jurisdiction of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), are being destroyed. Gandhi had also produced photographs to support his claim.
MMRDA counsel, however, denied the allegations stating that all directions have been complied with. The court has now asked MMRDA to file an affidavit with details of areas in its jurisdiction that have mangroves, and ensure no development permission is given.
MMRDA had last year claimed that it had planted 10 lakh mangrove saplings. Gandhi had also contended that MMRDA should construct walls on the northern and southern part of Mithi so that encroachers cannot access the mangroves. He submitted that the present wall is between the river and the mangroves instead of between the mangroves and the encroachers. MMRDA had argued that it does not have the machinery to remove encroachments.
The court had, in March, directed the government to file an affidavit giving details about how many water bodies, tanks and ponds exist today and what measures the government is taking to protect them. The court also wanted to know if there is a protection policy in place and which authority is responsible for these water bodies.
The court has adjourned the hearing for six weeks, giving the state time to reply with information about the water bodies.