HC appointed panel takes concrete steps for mangrove protection
The Konkan Divisional Commissioner has ordered immediate action on complaints regarding mangroves destruction, including installation of CCTV cameras and satellite imagery for protection. The committee also discussed issues like transfer of mangroves areas to the forest department and removal of debris. The High Court is already seized of the contempt petition filed by NGO Vanshakti, which claims that the mangroves have not been handed over to the forest department. Some remain cautious, stating that the committee has been passing directives with little action.
Konkan Divisional Commissioner Dr Mahendra Kalyankar who is the chairman of the High Court appointed Mangrove Protection and Conservation Committee has ordered immediate action on complaints regarding mangroves destruction.
Kalyankar has ordered a number of concrete measures for the protection of mangroves including installation of CCTV cameras, satellite imagery etc.
He has asked the government departments to have constant coordination for mangroves protection and conservation and resolve the complaints received with regard to them immediately through special efforts.
The decisions were made at the 25th meeting of the committee held this week. Present for the meeting were additional principal conservator of Forests (mangroves) S V Ram Rao who joined through video conferencing, member secretary and deputy conservator of forests (mangroves) Anita Patil, deputy superintendent of police (Home) Sanjay Sawant, assistant commissioner of police Jitendra Javale and deputy regional officer of Maharashtra Pollution Control Board Rupali Sonkamble.
Speaking on the meeting, Kalyankar said, “We discussed various issues including transfer of mangroves areas to forest department, attendance of nodal officers, removal of debris and disposal at designated places, use of power and responsibilities vested in the government departments, organisations and officials for immediate and result oriented action and coordination amongst all government departments.”
He added, “Several decisions were taken at the meeting and instructions given to ensure the fight for protection and conservation of the mangroves is taken up on priority.”
Stressed Kalyankar, “Special measures will be taken to ensure that there is no violation of the mangroves areas as per the provisions of Indian Forest Act 1927, Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 and Environment (Protection) Act 1986.”
He concluded, “We shall also constantly review the implementation of various orders given by the High Court on the issue.”
The HC is already seized of the contempt petition filed by NGO Vanshakti which has claimed that the mangroves have not been handed over to the forest department till date.
Stalin D, director of Vanashakti however welcomed the proceedings as positive. The member of HC appointed Wetland Committee said, “All credit to Kalyankar and the district collectors who have finally shown extreme urgency in tackling the issue and are putting their hearts to it. Site visits are now happening faster and meetings are happening at the collector office. It is a very good sign.”
He informed, “We have decided that before the next meeting all pending complaints upto December 2022 will be closed. After that all complaints will be taken up on a regular basis. That is the mission we have set for ourselves and we intend to achieve it. I am pushing for it constantly.”
Some are still cautious though. Said NatConnect director B N Kumar, “The mangrove committee has been passing directives to various authorities and agencies to protect the tidal plants with little action. The HC order to transfer all mangroves to the forest department has still not happened.”
He lamented, “The direct result of this delay is the unchecked and uncontrolled destruction of mangroves either by the debris mafia or the infrastructure project proponents.”
Concluded Kumar, “The mangrove committee is our last hope to save the tidal plants and it must act strictly now as promised.”
Major decisions at the meeting
Installation of CCTV cameras wherever required to deter and keep an eye on those trying to harm the sensitive mangroves areas.
Preparation of maps every six months through satellite high resolution images of mangrove areas in the State. If any changes are found, they will be taken up by the committee for discussion and requisite action.
Measures to create hurdles for the entry of vehicles in sensitive mangrove areas.
Creation of an independent secretariat along with a central control cell for mangroves related complaints and their resolution.
Confirm the sensitive mangrove areas in the state and ensure their surveillance by either the police, forest officers or security guards of Maharashtra Security Board.
Protection and conservation along with restoration of mangroves at affected areas through consultation with experts.
- Satellite Imagery