An surroundings group has issued contempt notices to all Konkan district collectors, the Konkan divisional commissioner, and state agency Jawaharlal Nehru Port Accept as true with (JNPT) for failing to hand over mangrove land under their jurisdiction to the Maharashtra forest branch.
The direction to hand over mangrove areas to the forest branch was once first issued by the Bombay high court (HC) on October 6, 2005, that mangroves on government owned lands (including those belonging to state agencies) be handed over to the forest branch inside a period of 12 weeks from their declaration as secure forests. The HC reiterated its order on September 18, 2018. Alternatively, while district bodies are yet to hand over 1,592.8 hectare area (ha), state agencies such as JNPT have failed to transfer about 1,147 ha to the forest branch falling under their jurisdiction.
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Petitioner before the Bombay high court (HC) in quite a lot of affairs pertaining to mangrove and wetland conservation, surroundings group Vanashakti, issued the contempt notice through its counsel between final Friday and Tuesday. A period of seven days has been provided to total the transfer process or a contempt petition will be filed before the HC, the group said.
“Not transferring mangrove lands to the forest branch for just about 15 years shows that there’s no sense of rule of law and no fear of the law. It is a fit case to receive an order of civil imprisonment of responsible officers or head of respective departments,” said Vanashakti counsel Zaman Ali.
A similar contempt notice had been issued to planning agency City Industrial Development Corporation Ltd. (Cidco) in October. Alternatively, the agency did not respond. “We are now forced to approach the HC for implementation of its orders and for mangrove conservation,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti.
Of the 30,200 ha mangrove forests across Maharashtra as per the Forest Survey of India, the state government has notified 15,312 ha as reserved forest under section 4 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (the remaining area falls on private land). According to the state mangrove cell, 1,592.8 ha is yet to be handed over to them. Maximum area is under the Raigad collector’s jurisdiction (1,195.5 ha) followed by Mumbai suburban (242 ha), Sindhudurg (115.3 ha), Palghar (34.1 ha), and Thane (5.6 ha).
HT had reported on December 4 that state surroundings minister Aaditya Thackeray had made up our minds to expedite and ease the transfer process of mangrove areas under the regulate of state agencies from January onwards after rectifying data gaps between the forest and revenue branch. “The process is underway and results are expected soon. The enquiry into most areas under revenue branch will be completed by January 15,” said a senior official from the surroundings branch.
Stalin countered that whether the process was once not completed over 15 years, it was once difficult to expect any improvement inside a month. “The main beneficiaries of this contemptuous act are the real estate sharks. We have reminded all departments over and over to abide by court orders but the connivance at the level of higher officials is mind-boggling,” he alleged.
Konkan divisional commissioner Annasaheb Misal said the matter was once being monitored by the state. District bodies said they had not received the notice and would respond accordingly. A senior official from JNPT said they needed to check their records before they could remark on the matter.
What does the law say?
Destruction of mangrove forests across Maharashtra and construction inside 50m of mangrove areas was once banned by the Bombay high court (HC) first in 2005 after a petition by the Bombay Surroundings Action Group. In September 2018, the HC bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice Riyaz Chagla passed its last order, which read: “Destruction of mangroves offended the essential rights of the citizens and hence it was once a mandatory duty of the state and its agencies to offer protection to and maintain the mangroves. All mangroves in the state are to be declared as secure or reserved forests, including land belonging to government agencies.”[ad_2]