The Bombay High Court on Friday asked the collectors of the seven coastal districts, along with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), to state why they have not complied with its September 2018 order wherein it had directed all mangrove areas to be declared forests and transferred to the forest department.
A division bench of Justice AA Sayed and Justice Madhav J Jamdar was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), filed by NGO Vanashakti, which had claimed “willful negligence” by the authorities to facilitate misuse of large stretches of mangrove land for vested interests and had sought to transfer nearly 1,600 hectares of such land to the forest department.
The NGO sought directions to immediately initiate the transfer and handover nearly mangrove land under the areas of the said district collectors to revenue and forest department and chief conservator of forest, mangrove cell.
The PIL claimed that while nearly 15,311.7 hectares of mangrove land came under the 2018 order’s ambit, a total of 13,716.73 hectares were transferred to the revenue and forest department. However, 1,594.97 hectares of mangrove area have not been transferred yet. He submitted that the chief conservator of forests had reminded the collectors and the authorities of non-compliance of the high court order but none of them follow it which prompted the NGO to move the PIL before the high court.
In view of this, the PIL also sought initiation of contempt proceedings against errant authorities.
After hearing submissions, the bench directed the respondent collectors and authorities to file their responses within three weeks and posted hearing on the PIL thereafter.