The Bombay High Court, on February 5, 2018, directed the Maharashtra government to use satellite mapping, to monitor and protect wetlands across the state. A bench of justices Naresh Patil and NW Sambre, also summoned the deputy secretary of the state’s Ministry of Environment and Forest on February 23, 2018, the next date of the hearing, to list down the steps taken to protect the wetlands and mangroves across Maharashtra. The bench also granted two weeks to the state authorities, to constitute a ‘grievance redressal authority’ for dealing with complaints relating to the destruction of wetlands and mangroves.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) by an NGO, Vanshakti, for saving wetlands and for setting up an appropriate authority to monitor violations. In compliance with a previous high court order, the state government, on December 18, 2013, had issued a government resolution, directing all the civic bodies to enforce a ban on reclamation or construction on areas earmarked by the state or the union government, as wetlands.
In July 2016, another bench of the high court had directed the state to constitute a committee headed by the divisional commissioner, Konkan region, to protect wetlands and to ensure their restoration. This committee, in turn, was to set up a grievance redressal authority to deal with complaints relating to the destruction of the wetlands. While the committee was set up last year and it was announced, at the time, that the grievance redressal authority would be constituted by December 26, 2017, the same is yet to be done.
“Why haven’t you complied with the court’s order yet? While there is rampant destruction of wetlands and mangroves, the public has no place to seek remedy,” the bench said. “Constitute the grievance redressal authority in two weeks. Also take immediate steps to protect wetlands. Use modern methods like satellite mapping,” the bench said.