“Wetlands have to be strictly protected,” observed the Bombay High Court Friday, while ordering a city civil court to take stock and decide on 54 such cases where construction has allegedly hampered wetlands. The High Court also directed that no construction should be carried out in disputed construction sites without the High Court’s approval.
The pending cases in Dindoshi court, Justices V M Kanade and Revati Mohite Dere ordered, have to be decided within four weeks. They were hearing a contempt petition being argued by advocate Zaman Ali, who said that despite court orders, reclamation activity in protected areas was being continued. Ali argued that builders were challenging showcause notices issued by the Brihanmumbai Mumbai Corporation (BMC) and even getting a stay order on those notices.
“Perusal of all past orders show that orders have been passed from October 2013 until today on the issue. Yet rampant destruction is continuing to take place in all such areas as mentioned in the contempt petition,” the Bench observed.
The 2013 order directed that there should be no construction activity in wetlands without the High Court’s permission. Subsequently, the Urban Development department had also issued notices to all municipal corporations, councils, zilla parishads and planning authorities refraining them from carrying out construction sites in wetlands.
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.
As a result, a contempt petition was filed by the petitioners against the state government for not keeping its promise.
The contempt petition mentions all the areas that the High Court had asked to be protected “specifically”.
These include Navghar Village waterbody, where reclamation of wetland and dumping of debris on wetlands was being carried out. Besides, the contempt petition claims of large-scale reclamation in Kanakiya Park, North of Vasai Creek, Essel World, Gorai, Wetlands near Dahisar Link Road bus stand, Ghodbhandar-Thane Road, Vikhroli-Mulund road, Jasai Village.
The court had earlier directed the DCPs to ask their officers to keep a vigil over the wetlands so that any future destruction is curbed. After Friday’s hearing, DCPs of Zone XI (Borivali) and Zone XII (Dahisar) were asked to “promptly” take care of the wetlands in their area.