The Bombay High Court on Monday ordered a “total freeze” on the destruction of mangroves in the state. The court said that the destruction of mangroves across the state cannot be permitted for any use unless the court finds it necessary for the public good.
Confirming its interim order passed in 2005, the High Court observed: “The destruction of mangroves offends the fundamental rights of the citizen and Article 21 of the Constitution of India… it is a mandatory duty of the state and its agencies and instrumentality to protect and preserve mangroves.”
The court said that any destruction of mangroves will invoke legal action against the violators. In October 2005, the High Court had passed an interim order and banned destruction of mangroves and dumping of debris on the mangroves land.
The court said that a 50m buffer zone should be created around mangrove land in which no construction activity or dumping of debris should be permitted.
A division bench of Justice A S Oka and Justice R I Chagla, was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by the Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG), for the protection of mangroves across the state.
The bench said, “We direct that it is the obligation of the state to replant destructed mangroves and to restore mangrove areas which are illegally reclaimed. A mangrove area on a government land is liable to be declared as a protected forest or reserved forest…”
The bench passed an order: “That there shall be a total freeze on the destruction and cutting of mangroves in the entire state of Maharashtra…”
The court said that the state government is duty-bound to protect and preserve all mangrove-rich land across Maharashtra. The bench also prohibited any dumping of construction debris or other waste on mangrove land.
The court also directed the state to identify all the private mangrove land as protected or, reserved forest area in accordance with the Indian Forests Act, 1927, and accordingly, transfer such areas to the jurisdiction of the state forest department. The court further directed the state government to constitute, a committee for the protection and preservation of mangroves, within a month.
The Committee will be responsible for preservation and restoration of mangroves, and check violations and ensure that all directions in the judgment are implemented.
The Court said: “All constructions taking place within 50 meters or all sides of all mangrove area shall be forthwith stopped. No development permission whatsoever shall be issued by any authority in the state of Maharashtra in respect of any area under mangroves. All authority, including the planning authority, shall note that all mangroves lands, irrespective of its area, will fall in Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) I as per both the CRZ notification of 1991 and 2011. In case of all mangrove areas, 1,000 sqm or more a buffer zone of 50 meters, along the mangroves will be also a part of CRZ I area. Though buffer zone of 50 m in case of mangroves area of less than 1000 m will not be part of CRZ I.”
The bench said that all the development plans in the future will be in consideration the above judgment. The state will have to notify all private mangrove land as protected forest land within 18 months.