In an interim report to the National Green Tribunal, the Surat District Collector has cited the coronavirus pandemic for a delay in identifying illegal shrimp ponds in the district and sought more time to complete the mapping such ponds on rivers Tapi, Mindhola, and Kim, and Tena creek.
On August 24, the green tribunal had issued notices to the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change and others on a petition filed by an NGO over illegal encroachment of shrimp ponds and salt pans on the flood plains of Tena creek and Kim river in Surat and Bharuch districts.
The petition, filed by NGO Brackish Water Research Centre’s MSH Shaikh, stated the illegal encroachments lead to bottlenecks in the water flow into the sea and damage to coastal ecology, and violated the Environment Protect Act, 1986, CRZ notifications of 2011 and 2019. The NGT bench had asked the Centre and others to file its reply on the petition, through email, within six weeks.
Another complaint to the NGT, filed by Surat-resident Roshni Patel had alleged that illegal encroachment of shrimp farms on Tapi and Mindhola rivers/estuaries in the district had affected the coastal ecology. The NGT bench had given the Centre time till September 22 to file the interim and action taken reports in the matter. On Monday, Surat District Collector Dr Dhaval Patel said he has filed interim reports on both the applications and sought more time from the NGT due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The interim report, filed in response to petitioner Roshni Patel, mentioned that an assessment study has been carried out in 12 villages on both sides of Tapi and Mindhola rivers/estuaries, the Collector said. The study, the report stated, included identification of shrimp farms, the status of their legality/permission, compliance of condition under permission status of CRZ violation, and measurement of individual ponds. The approximate area covered by the Tapi and Mindhola rivers/estuaries is around 2,500 hectares.
Dr Patel said, “We have relied on both the petitions on illegal shrimp ponds in Surat district and have sought more time (in both cases). Due to the prolonged rainy season and adverse field conditions for survey work, and the present Covid-19 outbreak, the measurements of shrimp farms have not been completed. It will take three more months and action will be initiated soon as per the report.”
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