The Bombay High Court Monday asked the state government to use satellite mapping of wetlands to protect them from destruction. Pulling up the state for not doing enough to ensure proper restoration of the wetlands, the court also directed the deputy secretary of the Environment Ministry of Maharashtra to be present in court during the next hearing. A division bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N W Sambre was hearing a public interest litigation by NGO Vanshakti for saving wetlands and setting up a Wetlands Authority to monitor violations. The state government had on December 18, 2013, following an HC order, issued a government resolution directing civic bodies to enforce a ban on reclamation or constructions on areas earmarked in the Centre’s wetland atlas.
The petitioner’s lawyer pointed out nothing had been done by the state to restore wetlands which had been encroached over the years. The state government,meanwhile, informed the court that in accordance to the earlier orders, they had set up a committee headed by the divisional commissioner, which was serving as a redressal mechanism. But the new authority supposed to be set up under the new Wetland rules 2017, was not in place.
“The existing committee should place a report before us informing us on the steps taken by the government in terms of ensuring protection of wetlands. Also, have you carried out mapping of wetlands, you should continue to monitor the wetlands by using satellite mapping to ensure protection of the environment. We will issue contempt if you don’t comply” said Justice Naresh Patil. The court further pointed out that the requirement for setting up such an authority was to be complied till December 26, under the recent wetland rules, but had not been done till date.
The court has now granted the state two weeks to set-up the authority. Listing the matter for hearing on February 23, the court directed that the Advocate General remain present during the next date of hearing.