HEARING a plea filed by the state seeking modifications in an earlier court order banning constructions on wetlands, the Bombay High Court on Monday asked the government whether it wished to destroy wetlands in the state.
A division bench of Justice A S Oka and Justice A A Sayyed were hearing a public interest litigation by NGO Vanshakti for saving wetlands and for setting up of a wetlands authority to monitor violations.
The state government had on December 18, 2013, following the HC’s order, issued a government resolution directing civic bodies to enforce a ban on reclamation or constructions shown on areas earmarked in the Centre’s wetland atlas.
The modifications sought were in terms of areas described as wetlands in the court’s earlier order.
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On August 21, 2014, the state government had informed the High Court that it had issued a Government Resolution on April 30, 2014, constituting a committee to coordinate among its different departments for preservation of wetlands.
On the state’s request, the court had even “trusted” the government to submit expeditiously a brief document detailing the demarcation, protection of wetlands through satellite imagery.
The government is yet to file the brief document and has been seeking extensions of time to do so.
Appearing for the state government, government pleader G W Mattos said, “We have started the exercise of identifying wetlands.”
The court, however, pointed to lack of progress in this regard. “Reclamation of wetland will start without identification on your part,” he said.
Mattos further said that these documents were to be filed under the Wetlands Rules 2010 but the Central government had already issued fresh draft regulations in this regard in 2016, which do not require this exercise to be carried out.
“You want to destroy the wetlands and permit its destruction. Have you adhered to rules notified by the Central government? You can’t rely on draft rules,” said Justice A S Oka.
Questioning what was wrong with the earlier HC order directing the government not to destroy wetland shown on the wetland atlas the court had said, “You have not
complied with court’s order and are seeking modification of orders on top of that. The state has the audacity to refer to draft rules.”
The High Court has now granted Mattos time till next Monday to inform the court if it plans to withdraw the plea or not.