‘Pending wetland cases on hold until restoration occurs’
Pending cases of mangrove and wetland destruction along Konkan will remain pending until all destroyed areas are restored, the Konkan commissioner said during the state wetland and mangrove committee meeting on Tuesday.
According to data from the mangrove and wetland committee, appointed as per the Bombay high court’s (HC) orders, 75 complaints of mangrove and wetland destruction have been reported along the Konkan coast this year. Only 20 cases have been closed so far. “Restoration of degraded areas is the responsibility of the municipal corporations, and very few locations have so far been restored. While some corporations have said they have insufficient funds, others said their tendering process for debris removal is underway,” said Shivaji Daunde, Konkan commissioner and chairman of the committee. Member secretary of the committee Neenu Somraj said until restoration takes place, the cases will be identified as pending even before the HC.
Meanwhile, the Konkan commissioner and the state will be writing to the Space Application Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad, under the Indian Space Research Organisation, to make wetland data available to the public to address pending cases. “Maps are not readily available with investigating agencies for many cases. We are working on the basis of complaints. If there is a map identifying wetlands in each district, it will be convenient for everyone,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.
“Insufficient data is a cause of concern. All agencies have been asked to present data available with them and SAC, Ahmedabad will be asked to share their data for parallel investigation. It will take time but each case will be scrutinised through detailed enquiries,” said Daunde.
The committee on Tuesday decided that sub-divisional officers (SDOs) from each district will be responsible for filing FIRs for environmental violations on government land. “Under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, follow up investigations are being filed by circle officers. This will not stand the scrutiny of law as officers of the rank of SDO need to file the offence report,” said Vasudevan.
A fresh FIR will be filed against commanding officer of INS Hamla in Marwe, Malad, for mangrove destruction. “Since the previous FIR was filed by a circle officer and stands unenforceable, the Mumbai suburban district administration was directed by the committee to ensure the SDO files the FIR against actual violators,” said Stalin D, member of the committee.
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