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NGOs want a new state body to check destruction of wetlands

                                                                                            Hindustan Times, Mumbai, 30th April, 2013

Citing government failure to protect precious wetland ecosystems in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) from illegal reclamation and dumping, three NGO’s and citizens filed a public interest litigation, which asks for setting up of a state body to check destruction of wetlands, in Bombay high court (HC) on Monday.

In in, the petitioners have asked for setting up a “state wetland authority comprised of forest officers, scientists, citizen groups, environmental NGO’s and other concerned government and non-government persons”, among other things.

Detailing the state government’s neglect of wetlands, the petition states that though the Wetland Rules, 2010, required every state to prepare a “brief document’ for wetland protection by 2012, the state government is yet to submits its roadmap. Because of this, the Centre has been unable to conduct a thorough survey of wetlands in consultation with the state government, the petition adds.

The PIL claims that despite citing errors in coastal zone maps, the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) has been clearing development projects in CRZ-I areas that are no-development zones. This has led to a massive loss of wetlands across the MMR region, the petitioners said. “Despite accepting on record that coastal maps contain errors, the MCZMA does not bother to verify the land classification through field visits. Instead, construction has been allowed on these very plots,” said Stalin D, director (projects), Vanashakti NGO, one of the petitioners.

Stalin added, “Furthermore, the MCZMA hardly files status reports on complaints on wetland destruction which they are supposed to according to Wetland Rules, 2010.”  The PIL has asked for reclassification of areas wrongly marked as CRZ-II and CRZ-III, identification of wetlands with the help of satellite maps, ground verification and wetlands that declaration of wetlands harbour migratory birds as ‘Important Bird Areas’.

“All of us came together as there has been zero action to save wetlands in areas such as suburban Mumbai, Vasai-Virar, Mira-Bhayander and Thane,” said Francis D’souza, president, Harit Naisargik Vasai Bachao Abhiyan.