Absenteeism of nodal officials on wetland, mangrove panel continues

ByG. Mohiuddin Jeddy
Mar 08, 2023 05:24 PM IST

Despite intimation to Bombay High Court about repeated absenteeism of officials from various nodal agencies at the wetland and mangrove committee, appointed by it, the problem continues


HT Image
HT Image

Navi Mumbai

Despite intimation to Bombay High Court about repeated absenteeism of officials from various nodal agencies at the wetland and mangrove committee, appointed by it, the problem continues.

The committee chairman Mahendra Kalyankar who has taken a serious view of the issue has now ordered that Demi-Official (DO) letter, a correspondence between officials for personal attention, be written about the failure of the officials to attend the crucial meetings.

The minutes of the meeting held by Mangroves Protection and Conservation Control Committee on June 22 last year confirms that due to the absence of representatives / nodal officers appointed for the wetland committee there are delays in resolving the complaints received by the committee and that the chairman has taken a serious view of it.

The minutes especially mention BMC, MIDC, MHADA, Environment department, and MCZMA representatives for repeatedly missing the meetings. It informs that the chairman has asked that it be brought to the notice of the HC through the government pleader.

The situation did not seem to have changed much at the meeting held after 6 months on March 2 either. Kalyankar who presided over the meeting was upset at the officials not being present for the meeting.

Confirmed Kalyankar, “Yes, I members not being present for the meeting is not right. I have hence asked our committee secretary to write to the departments of the concerned officials about their absence.”

Stated Adarsh Reddy, Member secretary of the committee and district forest office, “ Earlier we had informed the court that certain officials of some nodal agencies are irregular and hence we have an issue with the running of the affairs properly.”

He added, “At the March 3 meeting, the chairman asked that a strong DO be issued to all officials that were absent and ask them to be present for the next meeting.”

Informed Reddy, “I will be issuing the letters as the member secretary soon to ensure the officials are present next time.”

The March 3 meeting was held after a long break and after environmentalists have protested against the committees not holding their meetings regularly. Responding to the complaint from NatConnect Foundation, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has asked the Urban Development and Home Departments to look into the issue.

According to committee member, Stalin D, “The whole of last year the panels met just twice – once in January and then in June – and the meetings scheduled for February 8 were abruptly cancelled without assigning any reason.”

The committee meetings are supposed to be held regularly to attend to redress the grievances related to wetlands and to protect and conserve mangroves, NatConnect Foundation said in its missive to the State government. Not holding the regular meetings could amount to contempt of court, NatConnect director B N Kumar pointed out in his mails to the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary.

The CMO marked the e-mail to Bhushan Gagrani, Principal Secretary-Urban Development, and Anand Limaye, additional Chief Secretary – Home, directing them to take the complaints further.

Even when the rare meetings are held, the all important environment department, BMC and MMRDA have been absent making the committees’ task difficult, NatConnect said, quoting the minutes uploaded on the panels’ websites.

Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, recalled that the HC committees, headed by Konkan Divisional Commissioner, had asked the district collectors to handle local level complaints. These district authorities have apparently not been able to attend to the issues and “this is evident from the continued destruction of wetlands and mangroves and the inaction against the culprits,” Pawar said.

“It is about time the committees utilised all the powers at their command and protect the environment,” Pawar said.

Environmentalists now said they would look forward to regular meetings and adequate attention to their long pending complaints.

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