Thursday, December 12, 2013

National Green Tribunal asks Gujarat government not to allow destruction of mangroves without its nod

Dead mangroves at Hazira port
By Our Representative
In what is being described by the Conservation Action Trust (CAT), a non-government organisation, as a "landmark judgment", the National Green Tribunal (West Zone) has, in an order dated December 9, 2013, barred the Gujarat government to allow destruction of mangroves in any part of the state without the prior approval of the tribunal. The tribunal order came in response to the CAT’s application No 35 before it to prevent unprecedented mangroves destruction it found was being carried out in Gujarat in name of industrial development.
CAT is a non-profit organization formed to protect the environment, particularly wildlife and forests with a key focus on mangroves, and its main purpose is to educate and enlighten decision makers and the public about the importance of forests for our survival. Based in Mumbai, one of the major thrust areas is advocating the role of forests in protecting water security of the country while simultaneously acting as major carbon sinks thus mitigating the effects of climate change.
Kandla port: Reclamation on dead mangroves
Working closely with forest departments and other NGOs that are fighting to protect nature and natural resources, among its campaigns include actively protecting the mangroves in and around Mumbai. CAT statement said, “During our site visit in July 2013 we observed rampant destruction of mangroves at three locations that were visited by us – Navlakhi, Tuna Bandar and Hazira Port.”
CAT said, “We complained about the destruction of mangroves to the Forest Department and Environment Department of the State of Gujarat. We also wrote to the chief minister of Gujarat regarding destruction of mangroves. However, no action was taken to stop the destruction of mangroves and the illegal reclamation.”
CAT underlined, “We also discovered that the district collector of Rajkot has granted 5,000 acres of forest land covered with mangroves to a private individual for salt panning. This land harbours mangroves and is part of the area which has been declared as reserved forest by a Notification dated May 19, 1966. No clearances were obtained either under the Forest Conservation Act 1980 or under the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 1991.”
Destroyed mangroves near Navlakhi port
CAT added, “Following our complaint to the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF), Government of India, a site visit was organised by the regional office of MoEF at Bhopal on August 13, 2013. A team comprising of SK Bhandari (chief conservator of forests, MoEF Bhopal) and Dr Mehrotra (director, MoEF, Bhopal) conducted a site visit, along with officers of the Gujarat forest department, the Gujarat Pollution Control Board and the Gujarat Maritime Board. We obtained the site visit report under RTI which clearly mentions destruction of mangroves at Navlakhi.”
Following this, CAT said, it conducted “another site visit in August 2013”. This time too it observed “rampant destruction of mangroves around the Kandla Port and the area in between Kandla Port and the Tuna Bandar. We filed a complaint regarding this to the forest department of Gujarat. No action was taken by the Gujarat government to stop this destruction.”

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