In a significant order, the Bombay High Court banned reclamation of wetlands as well as construction activities on them across Maharashtra.
The order came following a slew of complaints against authorities concerned over their failure to rein in the encroachers.
The bench headed by Justice V M Kanade, which was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Vanshakti, also directed Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and Collectors of Thane, Mumbai Suburban District and Mumbai City to file reports within four weeks on action taken on alleged violations in wetland areas of the state.
The PIL alleged destruction of wetlands in suburban Malwani, Dahisar, Vasai, Esselworld, Oshiwara, Kanakia Nagar in Mira Road, Kasheli in Thane and Palm Beach Road area in Navi Mumbai.
The PIL said despite a High Court order four months ago, police and civic bodies had failed to take stringent action on complaints relating to alleged destruction of mangroves and wetlands in at least 14 locations in and around Mumbai including Thane, Diva, Mumbra, Vasai and Mira Bhayander.
The government had told the court earlier that an authority for monitoring wetlands would be constituted soon.
However, the NGO’s counsel, Gayatri Singh argued that the state government had not come out with a time-bound programme as when such an authority would be established.
The government had informed earlier that an expert committee had confirmed in a report that wetlands in neighbouring Vasai were being destroyed due to construction activities.
The NGO alleged that police did not heed complaints in this regard. The government argued that police were not empowered to take action in these matters but MPCB was.
The PIL said the Wetlands (conservation and management) Rules, 2010, were not being implemented in the state despite India being a signatory to the Ramsar Convention.
It also stated that the wetland atlas prepared by the Indian Scientific Research Organisation was not recognised by the state.