Cough up fines for wetland destruction or pay with your land, says Bombay high court panel

The panel will has also setup a website to track complaints, which is expected to be functional by the end of the week, said officials
Wetlands are areas of land that are either temporarily or permanently covered by water, depending on the season.
Wetlands are areas of land that are either temporarily or permanently covered by water, depending on the season.
Published on Nov 02, 2017 12:43 AM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times | By, Mumbai

Destruction of wetlands on private land in the state will now attract a penalty. The government will confiscate the land if the owners fail to pay this penalty, according to the new guidelines issued by the Bombay high court-appointed wetlands grievance redressal committee.

The guidelines were decided during the committee’s last two meetings. The panel will has also setup a website (konkanwetland.com) to track complaints, which is expected to be functional by the end of the week, said officials.

Wetlands are areas of land that are either temporarily or permanently covered by water, depending on the season. According to the national wetland atlas developed by the Union environment ministry, the total geographical area of Maharashtra is spread across 3.07 lakh sqkm and the wetland cover is almost 10,145 sqkm, which accounts for 3.30% of the total geographical area.

Members of the committee told HT that this year they received 17 major cases of wetland destruction. First-information-reports (FIRs) were filed and penalties were levied in 11 of these cases. The remaining six are pending and currently under inquiry. While the maximum cases have been identified in Palghar, Thane, Vasai and Panvel, a few cases were also identified in Mumbai.

“In consultation with all the members of the committee, we came to the conclusion that wherever wetland destruction takes place, the local district collector, along with the municipal corporation or public works department, will identify the extent of debris dumped and the cost of restoration will be adjudged by the forest department,” said JR Gowda, member secretary of the committee and deputy conservator of forest, state mangrove cell. “This cost will be levied as compensation or penalty to be paid by the offender. If the latter fails to pay the same after repeated reminders, the area will be recovered as an arrear of land revenue, which will be reflected in the revenue recovery certificate.”

For the 11 cases where FIRs were filed, maximum penalty was levied at Mohri Agashe wetlands in Vasai, where the owner has been fined Rs19,26,297. Another case in Palghar saw a fine of Rs98,000. “The Vasai wetland case, thanks to extraordinary efforts by the local tehsildar (revenue officer), has been identified as a case study for how we will proceed with these guidelines,” said Gowda.

The high court, in August last year, directed the state government to create a grievance redressal mechanism after hearing the contempt petition filed by NGO Vanashakti. It directed that a committee be formed, headed by the Konkan divisional commissioner, to monitor the order’s implementation and receive complaints on wetland destruction through email, WhatsApp messages, toll-free numbers and online on a website. The committee comprises of civic body representatives, the state pollution control board, district collectors, the state mangrove cell, police personnel and Stalin D from Vanashakti, petitioner in the matter.

The Konkan divisional commissioner told HT the same guidelines will be implemented for mangrove destruction as well, which form a part of wetlands. “Once these areas have been confiscated, revenue authorities will have the onus to put these lands up for auction. The idea is to protect the biodiversity of such areas and restore degraded wetlands and mangrove patches in the state,” said Jagdish Patil, Konkan commissioner.

A recommendation by Vanashakti regarding the guidelines was that the details of all properties, which have cases against them, will be put up on the website and buyers will be encouraged not to invest in these properties. This was incorporated by the committee, said Gowda.

“It has been a very tough battle to reach this stage and the committee has finally managed to instill a system in place which will act as a deterrent,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Badri Chatterjee is an environment correspondent at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He writes about environment issues - air, water and noise pollution, climate change - weather, wildlife - forests, marine and mangrove conservation

Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Mumbai: Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut arrives at the Enforcement Directorate office for questioning in an alleged money laundering case linked to the redevelopment of Patra Chawl, in Mumbai, Friday, July 1, 2022. (PTI Photo) (PTI07_01_2022_000062B) (PTI)
  • Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra. (ANI)

    'Will ensure justice...': K'taka minister on reports of two sisters stripped

    Karnataka home minister Araga Janendra said Friday he had only just received information about an alleged assault on two women in Anekal, a town in Bengaluru district. The sisters were allegedly stripped and assaulted at their home for failing to pay a debt. Multiple media reports have said the police refused to file a complaint for two days and only did so after videos of the assault were widely shared online.

  • The Maoist, Kamlesh was a member of Malenger Area Committee of Darbha Division of CPI (Maoist). (Representative image)

    Chhattisgarh: Maoist carrying reward of 5 lakh killed in encounter with police

    A Maoist carrying a reward of Rs 5 lakh on The Maoist, Kamlesh's head was gunned down by Chhattisgarh police in an encounter in Bastar's Sukma district on Friday, police said. The Maoist, Kamlesh was a member of Malenger Area Committee of Darbha Division of CPI (Maoist), police said. On Thursday, neighboring Dantewada police gunned down Denga Deva alias Mahangu Deva, who was a member of Katekalyan Area Committee of CPI (Maoist).

  • A cash van that was stuck in a waterlogged stretch in Bathinda after the first monsoon rain on Friday morning. (Sanjeev Kumar/HT)

    Monsoon covers Punjab’s Malwa belt, brings relief for farmers

    The first monsoon showers that hit the semi-arid region of south Malwa on Thursday night brought respite for cotton farmers from the deadly whitefly but exposed the ill-preparedness of the civic authorities in the urban areas as several areas in Bathinda town were in knee-deep in water. Also read: Monsoon arrives in Chandigarh tricity, so does misery Low-lying areas, such as Power House Road and Sikri Bazaar, were waterlogged.

  • Representational

    Mild earthquake in Karnataka's Kodagu, 3rd in a week in state: Report

    A mild earthquake was felt in Karnataka's Dakshina Kannada district early Friday morning - the third in the past seven days. News agency PTI said locals were woken up at around 1.15 am by a loud noise and tremors that were felt in Sampaje, Guttigaru, Ubaradka, Goonaka, Elimale, Sullia and nearby areas. Officials told PTI a report from the natural disaster monitoring centre is awaited. On Saturday (June 25), a 2.3 quake was recorded.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Friday, July 01, 2022