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Opinion

Disrespect Notice to Konkan Harvesters for Failure to Transfer Mangrove Land to Maharashtra Forest Department

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An environmental group has issued contempt notices to all Konkan district collectors, the Konkan divisional commissioner and the state agency Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) for failing to hand over the mangroves under their jurisdiction to the Maharashtra forest department.

The order to hand over mangrove areas to the forest department was first issued by the Bombay High Court (HC) on October 6, 2005, that mangroves on government-owned lands (including those owned by state agencies) are turned over to the forest department within 12 weeks of being declared protected forest. The HC reiterated its order on September 18, 2018. However, although district agencies have not yet delivered 1,592.8 hectares of area (ha), state agencies such as JNPT have not transferred approximately 1,147 ha to the forest department that is under its jurisdiction.

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The petitioner before the Bombay High Court (HC) in various matters related to the conservation of mangroves and wetlands, the environmental group Vanashakti, issued the contempt notice through his lawyer between Friday and last Tuesday. A seven-day period has been given to complete the transfer process or a contempt petition will be filed with the HC, the group said.

“Not transferring mangrove lands to the forest department for almost 15 years shows that there is no sense of the rule of law and no fear of the law. This is an appropriate case to obtain a civil incarceration order from the responsible officers or the head of the respective departments, ”said Vanashakti’s lawyer, Zaman Ali.

In October, a similar contempt notice was sent to planning agency City Industrial Development Corporation Ltd. (Cidco). However, the agency did not respond. “Now we are forced to approach the HC for the implementation of its orders and for the conservation of the mangroves,” said Stalin D, director of Vanashakti.

Out of the 30,200 ha of mangrove forests in Maharashtra according to the Forest Survey of India, the state government has reported 15,312 ha as reserved forests under section 4 of the Indian Forest Act 1927 (the remaining area belongs to private lands). According to the state mangrove cell, 1,592.8 ha remain to be delivered. The maximum area is under the jurisdiction of the Raigad gatherer (1,195.5 ha) followed by the suburbs of Mumbai (242 ha), Sindhudurg (115.3 ha), Palghar (34.1 ha) and Thane (5.6 ha) ).

HT had reported on December 4 that the state’s Environment Minister, Aaditya Thackeray, had decided to accelerate and facilitate the process of transferring mangrove areas under the control of state agencies starting in January after rectifying data gaps between the forest and revenue department. “The process is underway and results are expected soon. The investigation in most areas of the revenue department will be completed on January 15, ”said a senior official from the environment department.

Stalin replied that if the process was not completed in 15 years, it was difficult to expect any improvement in a month. “The main beneficiaries of this derogatory act are real estate sharks. We have reminded all departments over and over again to comply with court orders, but the collusion at the level of senior officials is astonishing, “he alleged.

Konkan divisional commissioner Annasaheb Misal said the state was monitoring the matter. District bodies said they had not received the notice and would respond accordingly. A senior JNPT official said they needed to verify their records before they could comment on the matter.

What does the law say?

The destruction of the mangrove forests in Maharashtra and the construction within 50 meters of the mangrove areas were banned by the Bombay High Court (HC) first in 2005 after a petition from the Bombay Environmental Action Group. In September 2018, the HC Abhay Oka court of law and Judge Riyaz Chagla approved their final order, which read: “The destruction of mangroves offended the fundamental rights of citizens and was therefore a mandatory duty of the state. and its agencies protect and preserve mangroves. All mangroves in the state must be declared protected or reserved forests, including lands belonging to government agencies.

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