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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Court questions state's disaster preparedness




The Bombay high court on Thursday wondered if the state government has made any alternative arrangement to tackle natural disasters and questioned its preparedness while hearing a PIL on the destruction of wetlands and mangroves.

On March 10, the HC had ordered a total ban on reclamation and construction on wetlands in Maharashtra and for prompt action to be taken against violators on a PIL by NGO Vanashakti. The court's observations came after the report of the chief conservator of forests (mangroves) confirming that there is massive destruction of wetlands and mangroves in areas such as Dahisar, Vasai, Ghodbunder Road and Kalwa in Thane district and Uran in Raigad district.

Vanashakti's advocate Gayatri Singh told a division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice P D Kode that destruction continued and no action was being taken by the civic bodies. Maharashtra Pollution Control Board's advocate Sharmila Deshmukh said no authority was empo wered to take action against violators and even the Wetlands Authority, which has been set up recently, had no powers.

The judges also lamented the decline and destruction of greenery in areas such as Vasai and Ghodbunder Road. Justice Kanade said that on his way to the Maharashtra Judicial Academy at Uttan there was "massive destruction and construction of illegal bungalows". Justice Kode said Ghodbunder Road during his childhood "was considered to be better than Ratnagiri because of its greenery".

Referring to the landslide in Pune, the government's advocate G

W Mattos said it had happened due to deforestation. The judges also wondered what would happen to Mumbai if wetlands disappear. "Fortunately it is raining. The entire city of Mumbai will have to be evacuated if it does not rain for two years," said Justice Kanade.

The judges also questioning the government's preparedness to handle natural disasters. "What alternative arrangement the government has thought about?" asked Justice Kanade. Posting the hearing on August 7, 2014, the judges said "concrete solutions" will have to be found otherwise their orders "will remain merely on paper".



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