The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has pulled up the union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) and the Uttar Pradesh government for not taking effective steps to protect wetlands. NGT said if states like UP do not identify and notify wetlands in their respective areas in the next two months, it will have to take punitive action against the officials concerned.
Notifying an area means that the state declares that it is legally bound to protect that particular area, in this case a wetland. After notification, the area cannot be destroyed for any other project, including housing, roads etc., according to officials.
The NGT order comes in response to a contempt petition filed by Noida-based petitioner Anand Arya in November 2015. He had filed the petition after the state government failed to identify and notify all of its wetlands, flouting NGT’s earlier order delivered on March 3, 2015. In that order, the NGT had directed the UP chief secretary to identify and notify all wetlands across the state, latest by June 3, 2015.
“In the contempt petition, I also demanded that all states be asked to identify and notify wetlands,” said Arya.
During the hearing on Thursday, lawyers for MoEF and the state government asked the green tribunal for more time to identify and notify wetlands. However, the tribunal refused.
“Bigger states like UP or Tamil Nadu are directed to identify and notify all wetlands in 10 districts in the next two months. Smaller states like Haryana or Delhi are asked to identify and notify all wetlands in five districts in the next two months,” said Ritwick Dutta, Arya’s lawyer.
“The NGT said if you cannot identify and notify all wetlands in the states in two months then select 10 districts (in bigger states) that have larger number of wetlands. For smaller states, the NGT asked them to select five districts that have larger number of wetlands,” Dutta added.
In the hearing, an NGT bench of Justice Swatanter Kumar angrily asked MoEF what they were doing to protect wetlands.
“The MoEF is not coordinating with states to pave the way for protection of wetlands,” said Arya.
The UP government’s advocate told NGT that the state has 1,34,000 wetlands and thus it cannot notify them in two months. “UP has not properly identified each wetland. According to Wetland Rules 2010, identification means that the state has to file details of each wetland about its size, sources of water, land owning and how it can be protected,” said Arya.