Mumbai: Development on mangrove land will be subject to the Bombay high court’s scrutiny, according to a directive given by justice JN Patel and justice BR Gavai on Wednesday.
In a PIL filed by the Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) seeking conservation of mangroves, the petitioners were seeking compliance of a high court order of October 6, 2005, in which the state government was ordered to notify mangroves as protected forests.
The court also indicated that no non-forest activity should be conducted in mangrove areas in Maharashtra, even if they are not notified as protected forests. “No destruction will be permitted in mangrove areas,” Patel said.
Arguing for BEAG, senior counsel Navroz Seervai told the court that 230 sq km of mangrove cover along the state’s coastline was still not notified as protected forest by the state. “The Maharashtra Remote Sensing Application Centre (MRSAC) had identified the area but the government failed to notify it despite the time extensions granted to it,” Seervai said.
Advocate general Ravi Kadam, however, said that the phase-wise notification of protected forests had already begun and the entire exercise may take six months.
Tata Power, which is seeking permission to erect transmission towers to generate electricity for Mumbai and Navi-Mumbai, has been constrained owing to the 2005 order banning hacking of mangroves. Counsel Janak Dwarkadas said the thermal power station was a sustainable development project in public interest. He said if mangroves were hacked to make way for the power-station they would be replanted elsewhere. “Forests are natural, you cannot plant them. Just like you cannot grow hair on a bald head,” Patel said.
The court allowed Tata Power and other intervenors to move government bodies for necessary permissions.