MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Monday directed the state government to set up a grievance redressal mechanism within six weeks to protect wetlands across Maharashtra and to ensure implementation of its orders, which banned construction on and reclamation of wetlands.
A bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Amjad Sayed directed a committee headed by the divisional commissioner (Konkan region) to monitor implementation of interim orders passed by the court in a PIL filed by the Vanshakti NGO. The committee will ensure “restoration of wetlands after instances of destruction are brought to its notice”.
“We hope the state government understands the important of maintaining wetlands,” said the bench, admitting the PIL for final hearing “considering the importance of preservation of wetlands”. It added that its October 14, 2013, order, which directed no reclamation of or construction on areas identified as wetlands, will continue to operate as an interim order.
The judges said they found from affidavits on record “major violations in Mumbai suburban district and Thane district”. Senior advocate Gayatri Singh, appearing for Vanshakti, said since there were large-scale violations, it was not possible to bring all instances before the court. Responding to the contempt petition for violation of the court’s orders, the state’s advocate, G W Mattos, said action had been taken to restore wetlands. “We have ensured tidal flow to wetlands is restored,” he said of two areas.
The judges said the committee will ensure a grievance redressal mechanism is set up to deal with destruction of wetlands in breach of its orders. It will make arrangements for receiving complaints, including anonymous complaints by email, WhatsApp and on toll-free numbers. The divisional commissioner should also create a website or provide on the official site a facility for complaints. Action taken should be posted on it, the bench added.
The committee will include a representative of the petitioner and those of planning authorities. Its members will include senior revenue and police officers, a Maharashtra Pollution Control Board representative and experts.
The government will give responsibility of implementation at the taluka level to officers not below the rank of tehsildar who will work under the orders of the committee. The State shall ensure that a police officer is made responsible at each taluka level to assist the tehsildar and other revenue officers for taking action in case of violations.
“As soon as complaints are received, an officer shall be deputed to the site,” the bench said. The government has to file a compliance report before the next hearing on September 30.
Credits ET Realty