Can reclamation be allowed on wetlands? Bombay HC asks Maharashtra govt

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday directed the Maharashtra government to clarify its stand over the issue of ban on reclamation or construction on wetlands. The HC has also asked the government to expedite its process of collecting information from all the districts, after which it would notify wetlands in the State.

A division bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice Nitin Sambre was informed that there is nearly 32,000 sq km of wetlands in Maharashtra.

Additional Government Pleader (AGP) G W Mattos informed the judges that pursuant to their earlier orders, the government with help of the centre at Ahmedabad, Gujarat, conducted mapping of wetlands by using satellite. He said, “After using satellite to map wetlands in the state, it is learnt that nearly 32,000 sq km of land in the state is covered by wetlands. This comes from the report prepared by the centre at Ahmedabad, Gujarat, which is the only centre in the nation to conduct satellite mapping.”

Mattos also informed the judges that the government has created a mobile app which is given to all the local authorities, who would be obtaining details and specifics of the wetlands in their districts. “These local authorities are tasked with measuring the wetlands in their districts. They would be preparing report of the same and forward it to us and we will then notify the wetland and implement the rules contemplating protection of the wetlands,” he said.

The judges were also informed that as a pilot project, the government would start notifying wetlands in Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts and implement the Wetland Rules, thereby protecting the wetlands in these regions. Meanwhile, several developers moved applications seeking permission from the court to continue with their construction work, which was banned way back in 2013, by another bench of the High Court.

Having heard the contentions of the developers and also the submissions of the government, the judges have asked advocate Mattos to clarify stand on the pleas of developers. The judges have asked the government to spell out if it would allow the construction work before the wetlands are notified.

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