A division bench of justices VM Kanade and PR Bora of the Bombay High Court, on February 7, 2017, directed the government to submit before it old and new Google maps of wetland areas, so that the extent of damage caused to mangroves and the encroachments on them could be compared. The court also asked the Maharashtra government to take steps to ruthlessly stop further destruction.
“The ideal thing to do, would be to take an old Google map and compare it with a new one. I have no doubt that there are encroachments on wetlands. Nobody can deny that. The only thing that remains is, what the authorities are doing to prevent, restore and restrain such destruction in future,” the court said, while hearing a public interest litigation.
“Now, we cannot do anything in places where buildings have already been constructed on wetlands. However, in future, in places like Mira-Bhayandar and Panvel, we have to see to it that mangroves are saved. We should ruthlessly stop further destruction,” Justice Kanade said. The court suggested that for those places where mangroves are destroyed for construction of public utility projects, the authorities can ensure that the mangroves are replanted elsewhere.
In the interest of the common public, the ecology and the future generation, the government will have to ensure that wetlands are safeguarded, the court said, while posting the petition for further hearing in March. “On the next date, submit a copy of an old and present Google map. We would like to compare the extent of damage to wetlands and encroachments on them. We would then see what steps can be taken to stop this in future,” the court said.