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All Maha govt bodies to file reports on every mangrove destruction case

The HC formed the committee in October last year to ensure safety of mangroves.

mumbai Updated: Nov 23, 2017 22:30 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
The HC formed the committee in October last year to ensure safety of mangroves. (FILE)

To ensure cases of mangrove destruction don’t get lost in dispute over jurisdiction, all state government departments have been given the power to investigate such incidents.

On Wednesday, Konkan commissioner Jagdish Patil, who heads the mangrove destruction grievance redress committee, said the collector’s office, revenue, forest (mangrove cell), civic officials and police will file individual reports for every mangrove destruction case, irrespective of the jurisdiction of the land.

The HC formed the committee in October last year to ensure safety of mangroves. Since 2012, there have been more than 327 cases of mangrove destruction on private land in Mumbai and more than 500 across the state. While 63 incidents have been reported on forest land, 82 have been on private land between January and October. First information reports (FIRs) have been filed, but no arrests or convictions have been made since 2012.

In cases on private land, the state mangrove cell hasn’t been able to take action as the land falls under the purview of revenue department.

The new rule will ensure swift action in cases that have been stalled for years. “We will use all provisions in the law to prevent destruction of mangroves and wetlands. We will adopt every recourse available, book offenders and ensure convictions to deter offenders.”

Acting on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Bombay Environment Action Group, the Bombay high court banned destruction of mangrove forests across the state and construction within 50m of mangrove areas in 2005. In 2014, after Vanashakti filed another PIL on the protection of wetlands, the HC banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands.

Mangrove cell officials present during the meeting said now different departments can take suo-motu. “Even though the forest department still doesn’t have powers over destruction on private land, investigation reports will assist other departments. There will also be a stronger case for conviction in court under different provisions of law,” said Milind Panditrao, divisional forest officer, state mangrove cell.

“The decision taken by the committee will help expose corrupt officers who protect the land mafia,” said Reji Abraham, founder and president, United Association for Social, Educational and Public Welfare Trust. “It is an uphill task to change this mindset, but joint efforts can lead to deterrence.”

First Published: Nov 23, 2017 22:30 IST

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