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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Mumbai and its suburbs yet to start mapping wetlands

Only Palghar and Sindhudurg from seven districts in Konkan have completed process to identify and protect natural areas

mumbai Updated: Feb 02, 2019 00:47 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
The state environment department first began the mapping exercise in the Konkan belt as it has maximum wetlands in the state.
The state environment department first began the mapping exercise in the Konkan belt as it has maximum wetlands in the state.(HT file photo)

Only two of seven districts from the Konkan region in Maharashtra have completed mapping wetlands in compliance with a 2017 Supreme Court (SC) order. The Centre had directed the state government to map wetlands across Maharashtra after the Apex Court order, which had asked all states to create a fresh database of wetlands.

Wetlands are areas that are either temporarily, or permanently, covered with water, depending on seasonal variability, and are home to plant and aquatic biodiversity. The state environment department first began the mapping exercise in the Konkan belt as it has maximum wetlands in the state. While Palghar and Sindhudurg have completed the process, it is yet to take-off in the other five districts - Mumbai city, Mumbai suburbs, Ratnagiri, Raigad and Thane.

The entire exercise will help identify the number of wetlands and their exact locations, which is currently unclear in many cases. It will also help authorities curb destruction of wetlands.

“We have written to the district collectors, directing them to expedite the process. We expect it will be completed by April,” said Anil Diggikar, principal secretary, state environment department, on the eve of World Wetlands Day (February 2).

Meanwhile, the wetland grievance redressal committee, a state body constituted as per the Bombay high court’s orders in 2017, recorded 60 complaints of wetland destruction in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) between January and December 2018.

This is the first official record of wetland destruction cases by any state-run body, said committee members, adding that 90% complaints were individual cases and the rest were repetitive.

Most of these cases were from outside the greater Mumbai area, including Navi Mumbai, Mira Bhayander, Jesal Park, Palghar, Panvel, Vasai, Virar and Uran.

Within city limits, instances of wetland destruction were reported from Dahisar, Pahadi Goregaon, Charkop, Borivli and Malad. The chairman of the committee, Konkan commissioner, Jagdish Patil, said some of the cases were transferred to the newly-constituted state mangroves committee and the remaining were disposed of after investigation.

“Protecting wetlands has to be converted into a people’s movement, so that there is active citizen participation,” said Patil. “Dedicated staff for wetland conservation is the main impediment. The focus this year will be to increase manpower and improve technology,” Patil added.

Other committee members, however, have different views. Vinod Punshi, a committee member, said there needs to be more vigilance. “Committee meetings are held every month and have the participation of all government departments. Focus on wetland protection has increased, but more vigilance is needed.” “Wetland protection is not being taken seriously,” said Stalin D, another committee member and a petitioner in the wetland case.

“Time frame to discuss issues is less, database is insufficient, and cases are not being resolved properly.”

First Published: Feb 02, 2019 00:46 IST