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Mumbai suburbs to get final wetland list by May

mumbai Updated: Apr 12, 2018 23:34 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times

Environmentalists had, however, criticised the new rules, claiming it was a means to allow development at these ecologically sensitive areas(FILE)

The final list of wetlands in the Mumbai suburban areas will be made public within a month, the district administration said on Thursday.

Based on satellite maps developed by the Space Application Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad, under the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Mumbai suburban district collector’s office started to identify and demarcate wetlands across the suburbs.

Currently, 412 wetlands have been identified in the suburbs and 63 in the city. “The final wetland list, framed on the basis of the criteria mentioned in the new wetland rules promulgated by the Centre in September 2017, will be released by May. We will invite suggestions and objections from citizens,” said Deependra Singh Kushwa, Mumbai suburban collector.

The exercise is being carried out almost five years after the Bombay high court (HC) asked the state government to develop a brief document for wetlands in Maharashtra, acting on a petition filed by NGO Vanashakti. “A year later, acting on the same petition, the HC banned reclamation and construction on wetlands. Based on a Supreme Court order and directions from the state environment department issued earlier this year, the process has been expedited across all coastal districts,” said members of the HC wetland grievance committee.

“Action by the Mumbai suburban district administration will help deter destruction of wetlands. All district collectors have begun the exercise. As the suburbs have fewer wetlands, the process will be completed faster. We will check the status of other districts during our next monthly meeting,” said JR Gowda, member secretary of the HC committee.

The Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 provide a framework to legalise destruction of wetlands, and also amend the definition of a wetland. The new rules disallow industrial development, garbage dumping or discharge of wastewater at wetland sites across the country. The rules direct states to constitute committees to focus on conservation of wetlands.

Environmentalists had, however, criticised the new rules, claiming it was a means to allow development at these ecologically sensitive areas. “Several development projects in the city have been stalled owing to wetland destruction complaints by environmentalists. In many cases, the areas are not demarcated as wetlands. The activity is being carried out to resolve these issues and ensure wetlands have the highest protection status,” said Kushwa. “Using coordinates provided to us from SAC, we have first superimposed all locations on a map. Based on field surveys, we have identified the exact area of a wetland site. After we collate this data, the sites will be notified and finally demarcated.”

Between January 2012 and January 2018, there have been 652 cases of wetland destruction in the state, of which 60% have been reported from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Wetland areas account for 3.3% of the total geographical area in Maharashtra, and almost 25% of the total geographical area of Mumbai suburban areas.

Environment watchdogs said the haste was to issue swift environment clearance to construction projects. “Wetlands have been under severe threat for the past decade and it seems the state machinery was snoozing for the past five years. This is not for conservation. By the time the inventory is complete, not even 70% of the current wetlands identified will be a part of it,” said Stalin D, director, NGO Vanashakti.

First Published: Apr 12, 2018 23:33 IST