Has the flood opened their eyes?

The Bombay HC order protects mangroves

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

Will construction such as the< (Credit: Ubermensch)a recent Bombay High Court (hc) order is expected to bring some respite to the much-exploited mangroves in Maharashtra. On October 6, 2005, chief justice D Y Chandrachud said, "This order is passed to prevent further destruction of mangroves and to ensure the conservation and rejuvenation of mangroves in the state of Maharashtra." It includes a total freeze on the destruction and cutting of mangroves in entire Maharashtra "with immediate effect". Garbage cannot be dumped into mangroves, and there can be no construction 50 metres on each side of a mangrove belt. No authority can permit development in mangrove areas, and all obstructions impeding mangrove growth, as well as those that impede seawater ingress, are to be removed.

The order comes in the wake of many public interest litigations (pils) filed in the hc seeking directions to protect mangrove cover. The petitioners argued there are about 18 major estuaries along the state's coastline, harbouring some of the biologically richest mangroves. Petitioners identified five areas facing indiscriminate mangrove destruction -- Seven Bunglows, Andheri; Kanjurmarg; Link Road, Goregaon; Gorai and Malvani Village, Malad.

The Maharashtra Remote Sensing Application Centre, Nagpur, has recently finished phase- i of its mapping for mangroves in the entire state and presented its findings to the hc. Mapping of mangroves in the Maharashtra State using Satellite Remote Sensing states that Maharashtra has 257.7 square kilometres (sq km) of mangroves, out of which 132.9 sq km are dense mangrove and 119.8 sq km sparse mangrove. Surprisingly, Thane district has the maximum dense mangrove forest (40.39 sq km), followed by Mumbai at 40.21 sq km. But overall, Raigad has the maximum mangrove cover of over 87 sq km. The state government has been ordered to finish phase- ii of this mapping within six months.

City environmentalists are jubilant at the judgement and claim that even ongoing projects such as Bandra Kurla Complex will have to either stop work , or explain there non-compliance to the hc . Some, like H P Samant, geologist, St Xavier's College, Mumbai, claim that even a central notification on the coastal regulation zone of 1991, could not check the destruction of mangroves. And, the state government is its biggest defaulter.

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