Bombay HC Sets Aside NGT Order On Panje Wetland In Navi Mumbai; Issue Sent To State Environment Department

Bombay HC Sets Aside NGT Order On Panje Wetland In Navi Mumbai; Issue Sent To State Environment Department

The case dates back to November 11, 2020 when the state environment department asked CIDCO and Raigad district collector to ensure that intertidal water flow to Panje is not blocked.

Bhalchandra ChorghadeUpdated: Wednesday, January 31, 2024, 09:31 AM IST
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Panje Wetland |

Navi Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has sent back the Panje wetland issue to the State Environment Department thereby setting aside the order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) and Navi Mumbai Integrated Industrial Area (NMIIA), earlier NMSEZ. A division bench of Justice Kamal Khata and Justice G S Patel ordered the Principal Secretary of state environment department to take up the issue after hearing CIDCO, the NMIIA and environmental activist Nandakumar Pawar.

The Principal Secretary must consider the representations and hear all three parties and pass a reasoned order as early as possible, but preferably in no more than 12 weeks, the High Court said in its order dated January 24, 2024 uploaded on January 29, 2024.

The case dates back to November 11, 2020 when the state environment department asked CIDCO and Raigad district collector to ensure that intertidal water flow to Panje is not blocked. This followed a series of complaints to the government from environment activists. The letter was also marked to NMIIA asking it to demolish illegal security cabins.

Wetland Earmarked As Part Of The Dronagiri Development Plan

The Raigad district administration had confirmed that the 289 Ha Panje wetland in Uran, equivalent to the size of about 30 Azad Maidans, is in for development as per the CIDCO plans. The wetland has been marked as sectors 16 to 28 as part of the Dronagiri Development Plan published by CIDCO and is under the control of NMIIA, the collector’s report to the High Court appointed wetland grievance redressal committee had said. The collector also conducted a site inspection at the instance of the wetland committee to whom environmentalists had complained against NMIIA plans to build an IT Hub in Uran on wetlands and mangroves.

The collector’s report said there was no sign of any work in progress on the wetland nor was any loss of mangroves as yet. The wetland has not been listed or notified under the wetland rules of 2010, the report said.

Environmentalist Nandkumar Pawar had filed an application with the western zonal bench of the NGT as the government order was being violated. NGT asked the government agencies to implement the state’s order and this was also not complied with. Pawar then moved the NGT with a plea to execute its own order which the tribunal did. CIDCO and NMIIA filed a review petition with the NGT after complying with the environment director’s order. The larger six-member bench of NGT, however, upheld the original order and asked CIDCO and the Raigad Collector to maintain Panje as a wetland. This led to CIDCO and NMIIA to file a writ petition in the High Court which passed its order on January 24, 2024.

Complaints Filed With Officials Over Attempts To Destroy Wetland

Environmentalists Nandakumar Pawar and B N Kumar had lodged a series of complaints with the Chief Minister, the Raigad collector, the High Court-appointed Mangrove and Wetland Protection Committee against the attempts to destroy the Panje wetland and construct buildings. Accordingly, a Public Interest Litigation was also filed by environmentalist Stalin D of Vanashakti seeking to declare Panje either a sanctuary or a national park or to have some other protective status under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. The petition will be heard by the same bench shortly, the court said.

“The destruction of Panje will spell the death knell for Uran as the area also serves as a holding pond, a natural flood mitigation system, apart from meeting the needs of the local fishermen community,” Pawar said adding, “The High Court has given us 12 weeks’ time to present our view on the issue which we will do accordingly.”

Meanwhile, Kumar recalled that the then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had declared on December 4, 2015 that the State Wildlife Board has cleared three bird sanctuaries at Sewree-Mahul, Panje-Funde and NRI-TS Chanakya. The government unfortunately is yet to implement this decision, Kumar regretted. “Even the Mangrove Cell and BNHS are keen to protect the wetlands but CIDCO has been in a denial mode. Panje also forms part of the Satellite Wetland Development Plan for the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary – a Ramsar site – prepared by the Mangrove Foundation in association with BNHS,” Kumar said and regretted that the government has failed to notify Panje as a wetland though it figures in the National Wetland Inventory Atlas prepared by the ISRO.

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