The Supreme Court Thursday pulled up the Centre for its lackadaisical approach to wetland conservation and imposed a penalty of Rs 50,000 on Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
“We are dissatisfied with the explanation given by the Centre,” a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said. The court gave MoEF a week’s time to explain why its earlier orders on the subject had not been complied with. The court was hearing a PIL seeking protection of the country’s wetlands, 26 of which are categorised as Ramsar sites under the 1971 Ramsar convention.
During a hearing on February 8, the court was told that the government had mapped 2,01,503 wetlands spread over 2.25 hectares. The court asked the government to “identify and inventorise all these 2,01,503 wetlands with the assistance of the state governments”. However, on Thursday, the court was told that the process may take a long time.
The court also expressed disappointment at MoEF’s failure to explain how money given to states for conservation of Ramsar sites was spent. The MoEF counsel said it had written to states like Himachal Pradesh and was waiting for a reply. The court said, “You write letters to states and they don’t reply? …The Ramsar convention was signed by the Government of India, not Himachal Pradesh… We are told that India is supporting the Paris accord (on climate change). This is the kind of support you are giving…,” said Justice Lokur.