Prepare final list of wetlands within 2 weeks: HC to state
The Bombay high court (HC) on Wednesday directed the Maharashtra government to submit a complete list of all wetlands in the state, along with documentation for each site, within two weeks.
The court passed the direction while hearing a 2013 petition by environment group Vanashakti seeking protection of wetlands in the state. A bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and BP Colabawalla on Monday had pulled up the state, especially district commissioners and collectors, for failing to submit brief documents for the state’s wetlands for the last eight years. The bench had directed the principal secretary (environment) to be present in person on Wednesday to inform the court about the action taken or proposed against commissioners and collectors failing to comply with court orders.
On Wednesday, the court gave the state an ultimatum to publish the list on the ministry website by January 29, the next date for the hearing.
“As per the court’s directions on Wednesday, we will ensure that all brief documents of wetlands are uploaded within the next two weeks on our web portal. For this, we have requested the state chief secretary to hold a meeting with all collectors to ensure there is no breach of the court order,” said Sanjay Sandanshiv, undersecretary (environment department).
The document will have characteristic features for each site, the location, expanse, threats, action plan to preserve the area under the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017.
So far, the state has prepared brief documents for all seven districts along the Konkan coast – Mumbai, Raigad, Palghar, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri, and Sindhudurg. Brief documents for all other remaining districts are currently pending, said Sandanshiv.
Meanwhile, the environment department on Wednesday submitted an affidavit highlighting three districts - Nagpur, Parbhani and Nandurbar - do not have a single wetland and so no brief document was needed to be prepared. The submission was challenged by petitioners Vanashakti who countered the submission citing details from the National Wetland Atlas, Maharashtra that Nandurbar had 735 wetlands, Nagpur 1,054, and Parbhani 276. Overall, the atlas shows Maharashtra has 46,460 wetlands.
“The claim that there is no wetland in these districts was strongly contested by our counsel and we submitted a list of wetlands across Maharashtra which needs to be notified and protected. Despite having eight years to notify these wetlands, the revenue department has done nothing,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti. The HC bench asked petitioners to submit their submissions in the form of a small note on Wednesday.
Sandanshiv said the petitioners were right. “The district collectors from Nagpur, Prabhani and Nandurbar told us that no information was available on wetlands. An objection has been taken on this, and they have been directed to revisit the atlas and submit fresh details,” he said.