Top ten Judicial actions on India Wetlands-2021

Feature image: Deepor Beel boundaries still await proper demarcation (27 Dec. 2021) by G Plus.

This third part of Wetlands Overview 2021 provides details of top ten judicial interventions in India in 2021 regarding wetlands. The first part presented top ten stories about current situation of wetlands in the country and the second part covered top 10 actions by the state and central governments that affected the wetlands in positive and adverse manner. 

1. Karnataka GREAT WORK BY ESG Karnataka High court had ruled in Environment Support Group (ESG) lakes case (WP 817/2008) on 11 April 2012 that every district would have a lake protection committee to entertain any complaint or proposal to protect and rehabilitate lakes and Raja kaluves for posterity – as biodiversity and livelihood rich wetlands.  In case the district committees failed to resolve the concern, a quasi judicial body at the state level headed by the Revenue Secretary along with Member Secretary of Karnataka State Legal Services Authority would attend to the grievance.

This was in response to ESG prayer for a schema for participatory management, protection and rehabilitation of lakes and Raja kaluves across the state – there are 40000 lakes left (we may have lost over 10000 in the recent past).

Such an accessible decision making and conflict resolution forum at the local level would ensure that communities would not have to rush to the High Court or National Green Tribunal (NGT) to resolve lake related disputes. Instead, such forums could help build a truly participatory process to build water, livelihood and ecological security. It would help build trust in each other for advancing a common cause – and in an inclusive manner. (Currently several urban lake conservation efforts are exclusive – responding essentially to middle class, elite and corporate imaginaries.)

To ensure that there is money for this unprecedented effort, in the case of Bangalore lakes at the very least, the Court extracted a commitment from the State Govt, BBMP and BDA that at least ₹50 crores each would be budgeted for the exercise. When Sadananda Gowda was CM and Finance Minister, such an allocation was made. If this budgetary allocation was sustained, we would have had about ₹ 1000 crores to support this remarkable community effort.)

Even though the Lake Protection Committees were formed after ESG filed a contempt petition in 2013, by a rather reluctant Govt Order, these Committees were not made functional.  Complaints could not be entertained as meetings were not held.

When Citizens Action Group filed a case for restoration of Raja kaluves and lakes in Bangalore (WP 38401/2014), as the matter progressed ESG and Leo Saldhana (as party in person) intervened.  Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Abhay Oka accepted the interventions and looked into ESG’s grievance that the 2012 WP 817/2008 order was yet to be implemented.

The Pictorial Representation of Current Status of Lake

Chief Justice Oka issued a series of orders to ensure these Committees were set up and made functional.  He highlighted how the State was bound by Public Trust Doctrine to ensure lakes and Raja kaluves are protected for posterity and rehabilitated as commons.  He directed the State to provide widespread publicity to the existence of these decision making and conflict resolution fora, accessible to the wide public, and the result is seen in Jan 7, 2021 advt.

ESG encourages everyone across the state to use these innovative instruments so we can restore all 40000 lakes and their interconnecting Raja kaluves, and perhaps build 1000s more to secure the futures of future generations. If we achieved that and ensured water guzzling human activities is made a thing of the past (by reforming urban, industrial and farming sectors)- it takes 2-3 years, then Karnataka would be the first water secure state based largely on surface flows and rainwater harvesting. Which means we would ensure no one has to struggle to access water, farms would be productive, animal husbandry would flourish (as when lakes dry up in summer they turn into grazing pastures), and millions of rural youth need not rush to cities for tiring jobs as taxi drivers. They can continue to be healthy and prosperous farmers.

For Bangalore, and other cities, implementing this order by engaging with Lake Protection Committees would mean there is a high possibility of Ward Committees organising lake and Raja Kaluve rejuvenation efforts (so that lake protection is an inclusive effort). In this way we could enjoy 840 kms of pollution free Raj kaluves as commons, replete with wooded areas and high biodiversity, and our city lakes would be spaces for watching birds, reflecting, de-stressing, even support livelihoods through urban gardening and fish farming, etc.

ESG calls it part of its 9 ‘K’ movement:  to protected Kere (Lake), Katte (Bund), Kunte (Pond), Kalyani (Sacred step wells), Kaluve (Canal), Kesaru (Wetland/Soil), Kaavalu (Pastures), Kaadu (Forest) and sustainable Kayaka (Livelihoods)!

For more details on how to use the lake protection Committees, see: https://esgindia.org/new/campaigns/lakes/saving-lakes-using-judicial-orders-issued-in-esg-pils/.

For details of the ongoing litigation: https://esgindia.org/new/education/karnataka-high-court-directs-state-to-ensure-karnataka-lakes-are-protected-per-2012-order-in-esg-pil/

(Hundreds of individuals and organisations have helped make this a reality.) https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/4129804563713852

Additional Civil Judges Ramprashanth MN and Santhosha Kumar Daivajna, with the help of Anekal Taluk Legal Services Authority, Anekal Advocates Association and Police officers have brought to life 400 year old lake (kalyani) in Anekal in Karnataka. The lake was in bad shape and was almost sub-merged in dirt and mud. The team worked relentlessly for many months to clean the entire surrounding and to bring the lake to original status. https://dakshalegal.home.blog/2022/01/14/judges-and-lawyers-rejuvenate-400-years-old-lake-in-anekal/ (Jan 14, 2022)

HC directs for decentralised governance of lakes Directing a new model of water bodies’ governance in Karnataka, the High Court, on June 15 2021, has ordered the state government to decentralise the governance of the lakes in rural and urban areas by setting up district-level committees. These committees are to be headed by the respective Deputy Commissioners of the 27 districts in Karnataka.

This new decentralised model is on the lines of similar committees that have been set up for city corporations and municipalities across the state in order to monitor the maintenance and development of these lakes. However, lakes in rural areas were not covered.

“This ruling has expanded the scope of the prevailing order in ESG’s Lakes PIL and brought true public involvement in lake management and rehabilitation, and in regulation against their pollution – a substantive leap forward in governance of lakes as commons,” the petitioner said. https://en.gaonconnection.com/karnataka-lakes-court-order-environment-support-group-bengaluru-illegal-construction/?3436436  (17 June 2021)

2. Tamil Nadu “Get bulldozers ready”: HC on waterbodies encroachments  In a bid to check encroachments on water bodies in Tamil Nadu, the Madras High Court on March 2, 2021 ordered that GPS/ satellite images of water bodies across districts in Tamil Nadu, as existing on March 15, 2021, be uploaded online by District Collectors by March 17. A Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy passed the order while hearing a PIL moved alleging water body encroachment through a Rs. 112 crore beautification project being undertaken in Erode. The case prompted the Court to opine that satellite images of all water bodies must be uploaded online so that the number of water bodies that existing on a particular date can be verified. https://www.barandbench.com/amp/story/news/litigation/madras-high-court-directs-state-to-upload-satellite-images-of-water-bodies-tamil-nadu (2 March 2021)

While these are welcome, we hope these orders get implemented and provisions be made by the HC to ensure accountability of the DMs to ensure that all information is put out on the district water bodies website in language, form and manner that people understand as also in English and should be archived so that the information can be used in future. The information from the past should also be put up on such websites and a transparent, participatory monitoring of the water bodies be instituted for each district.  https://sandrp.in/2021/03/08/drp-nb-8-march-2021-will-madras-hc-action-help-save-water-bodies/  (08 March 2021)

Ensure zero tolerance towards encroachment of water bodies: HC The Madras High Court on Jan. 5, 2021 said the government officials must have zero tolerance towards encroachment of waterbodies and ensure that every inch of such encroachment gets removed at the earliest by following the due process of law. Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy made the observation while hearing a public interest litigation petition which sought for removal of encroachments from a two-acre swamp at Arehalla in Ithalar, a village in Nilgiri hills.

A government counsel, on instructions, conceded that there were indeed encroachments on the swamp and sought six weeks’ time to remove them. The judges accepted her request and ordered that a compliance report should be filed in court.

In his affidavit, K. Ramesh Kumar, the petitioner said Ithalar had about 150 houses. The residents were basically an agricultural community and a majority of them were small tea growers dependant on natural streams for water supply. After repeated representation to the government authorities, the swamp was identified for fulfilling the water needs of the residents by erecting a well and a pump house. However, now some of the adjacent land owners had encroached upon the swamp, he complained. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/ensure-zero-tolerance-towards-encroachment-of-water-bodies-madras-hc-tells-govt-officials/article33506463.ece  (6 Jan. 2021)

Ban on registering properties on waterbodies to be enforced To strictly enforce the existing ban on the registration of properties on waterbodies, waterways and water catchment areas, the Registration Department has warned Sub-Registrars of disciplinary action if they violate the norm.

The Madras High Court order in September this year arose out of a petition filed by Arappor Iyakkam, an anti-corruption movement that the tanks and their inflow-outflow channels were encroached upon and buildings constructed on them, in Chitlapakkam and Selaiyur areas. This was not only lowering the water table but also causing flooding, resulting in loss of life and property. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/ban-on-registering-properties-on-waterbodies-to-be-enforced/article37673590.ece  (25 Nov. 2021)

PIL accuses TNRDC of obliterating water bodies in Padur for OMR Phase II project  The Madras High Court on July 15, 2021 expressed shock over an allegation levelled by a PIL that the Tamil Nadu Road Development Corp (TNRDC) was destroying water bodies in Padur village for the Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) Phase II project in Chengalpattu district. Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy told govt counsel P. Muthukumar that damage to water bodies appeared to be happening on the stretch of OMR, touted as the Rajiv Gandhi Information Technology Expressway, dotted by several wetlands and marshlands.

“Many constructions over there involve desecration of water bodies. The State cannot indulge in such things. Development has to be sustainable. There ought to be elevated corridors. Statutory authorities have to consider it. Ask your officials to visit the place,” the Chief Justice told the counsel. The Bench also called for a status report on the issue from TNRDC within three weeks. The interim order was passed on a public interest petition filed by S. Sridhar, a resident of Padur. The litigant also stated that the groundwater table in Padur had gone down from 80 feet in 2006 to 200 feet now. Therefore, he urged the court to declare the encroachment of water bodies as illegal and order their restoration besides initiating action against the erring officials. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/pil-accuses-tn-road-development-corporation-of-obliterating-water-bodies-in-padur-for-omr-phase-ii-project/article35341261.ece  (15 July 2021)

3. Assam NGT Must Have Alacrity, Concern For Environment: SC The bench of Justices Chandrachud and M. R. Shah was considering an appeal arising out of the NGT’s adjudication of allegations of failure of authorities in preventing the blowout of Baghjan 5 oil well of the Respondent-Oil India Ltd., resulting in a massive fire causing irreparable loss to the entire biodiversity of the region and loss of lives and property.

“We are surprised by this order of the NGT. It is the OIL Ltd. which is responsible for the damage to the wetlands and its own Managing Director has been inducted into the committee?!”, Justice Chandrachud had observed at the outset.

“We are very dissatisfied with the manner the NGT has pushed the matter off its hands. It is the NGT, it must have some alacrity and concern for the environment. We might decide it ourselves. We will hear you and reconstitute the committee- One Committee, which may be headed by a former Supreme Court judge and would comprise environmental experts. We will do that exercise here only”, said the judge to the Senior Advocate for the petitioner.

“And after the report of the first committee, three committees have been set up separately! What is this?”, pointed out Justice Shah. The bench also agreed with the petitioner’s submission that the Committees so constituted are stuffed with bureaucrats and comprise hardly any experts. The bench also issued notice on the appeal to the OIL Ltd., MoEF and Ministry of Petroleum. https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/supreme-court-national-green-tribunal-dibru-saikhowa-forest-oil-bhagjan-blowout-176657  (01 July 2021) 

Supreme Court has notified OIL, the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, and Ministry of Environment & Forests to submit a response within three weeks when the next hearing would take place. The apex court further indicated that it might monitor the investigation and restoration efforts in Baghjan in which two firefighters, an engineer, several endangered wildlife species, fishes and birds lost their habitat after fire caused by the blowout.

The petitioners also cited the report of Chief Wildlife Warden of Assam, Dr. M.K. Yadava’s report on the disaster which was recently made public by Yadava himself. Following the disaster, Assam Government appointed Yadava to investigate the impact of the blowout on the fragile ecosystem of Dibru Saikhowa National Park in the vicinity of Baghjan oil and gas field. Yadava had estimated more than Rs 25,000 crores of losses to ecological and human habitat following the oil fire, whose impacts would continue for more than a decade. https://www.eastmojo.com/assam/2021/07/01/oil-officials-barred-from-investigating-baghjan-blowout-says-sc/  (01 July 2021)

Oil well blowout at Baghjan. Image East Mojo

Hearing a petition on the Baghjan case, the Supreme Court on Monday (Aug. 23) indicated that it may bring Justice (Retired) B.P. Katakey back to assess the damage caused by a blowout and a fire next to the Dibru Saikhowa National Park and suggested restoration of the ecological habitat. Katakey was earlier appointed by the NGT to investigate the blowout in an oil well operated by OIL following which the former judge found several violations by OIL in securing and operating oil wells in Baghjan area.  https://www.eastmojo.com/news/2021/08/23/supreme-court-may-bring-justice-katakey-back-to-baghjan/  (23 Aug. 2021)

Despite several attempts by OIL to oppose Justice Katakey’s re-appointment, an apex court bench constituted a five-member committee that will assess the impact of the Baghjan disaster on Dibru Saikhowa National Park and surrounding areas in the Tinsukia district of Assam and suggest restorative measures. https://www.eastmojo.com/national-news/2021/09/02/sc-reconstitutes-a-new-committee-to-assess-baghjan/  (02 Sept. 2021)

4. Rajasthan HC stays work on mega solar project in Sambhar  “TOI had reported that over 16,000 acres would be required to set up the 4,000MW plant. This would mean setting up solar panels in large swathes of land. It is feared that such a large-scale project on the wetland could wipe out the ecosystem with all its genetic diversity. Currently, no single entity is responsible for the management of Sambhar. But the multi-departmental Sambhar Development Agency, which is awaiting the law department’s approval, is expected to play a key role in protecting the wetland and creating a sustainable model for development for the benefit of local communities.” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/raj-hc-stays-work-on-mega-solar-project-in-sambhar/articleshow/88399589.cms   (21 Dec. 2021)

5. Gujarat ‘Cannot allot water body land even if it is dry’ HC has said that it would not allow allotment of land of a notified water body for public projects, even if there is no accumulation of water & there’s dry patch of idle land. Case involves Pragsar Lake at Bhuj-Kutch. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/cannot-allot-water-body-land-even-if-it-is-dry-says-gujarat-high-court/articleshow/84723571.cms  (25 July 2021)

6. Jammu & Kashmir NGT directs CS for personal appearance NGT Principal Bench has directed the J&K Chief Secretary to appear personally before it in the case relating to encroachment of wetlands in J&K at hearing on 17 Nov 2021. The NGT listed the matter for further directions and for hearing on the objections to the new rules on 9th Nov, 2017. It also directed for the application of the principles of Rule 4 of the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 to 2,01,503 wetlands mapped by the Union of India.

Hearing a petition of Raja Muzaffar Bhat regarding the prevention of unscientific dumping of waste and encroachment of Hokersar Wetland, Wular Lake and Kreentchoo-Chandhara Wetland in J&K against the state of J&K and others, the NGT directed the state governments that have not complied with earlier orders or directions given by the Central government should do so within a period of four weeks failing which they would be constrained to require the presence of the Chief Secretaries of the state governments in addition to imposition of heavy costs keeping in mind the necessity of conserving whatever water bodies were left. https://www.greaterkashmir.com/todays-paper/ngt-directs-chief-secretary-for-personal-appearance-in-encroachment-of-wetlands-case  (25 July 2021)

When wetlands become wastelands in J&K.https://www.theleaflet.in/when-wetlands-become-wastelands-in-jk/

Tribunal directed the Chief Secretary of J&K to remain present in person on the next date, by video conferencing, with compliance status as on 31.10.2021 as also Secretary, J&K to remain present in person on the next date, by video conferencing, with compliance status as on 31.10.2021. “…the National Wetland Committee to expeditiously compile the relevant date of all wetlands”, the Tribunal further directed. The NGT directed the plan may include among others remedial action against weed infestation, sewage discharges, solid waste disposal, encroachments etc. “This may be overseen by the Chief Secretary, J&K in view of significance of the matter and continued violation of orders of the Supreme Court, noted earlier”, read the direction.

Tribunal has expressed its disappointment at inadequacy of the report filed almost 10 months after the last order and four years after the order of the Supreme Court. “It is surprising to note that even after such a long period, the National Wetland Authority is not able to get relevant information from the concerned States, in spite of categorical orders of the Supreme Court dated 08.02.2017, requiring the Central Government to inventorize 2,01,503 wetlands to which the principle of Rule 4 of the Wetlands Rules 2010 was made applicable. It is a matter of serious great regret and failure”, the Tribunal recorded.  https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/ngt-seeks-time-bound-action-plan-from-cs-on-wetlands/  (25 July 2021)

7. Goa Road construction shldn’t result in biodiversity destruction On June 23, 2021 while forming a committee to monitor compliance of environmental norms during construction of a stretch of Margao National Highway Western Bypass in Goa, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said the construction of the road should be consistent with the principle of sustainable development i.e. adopting safeguards for protection of wetlands, water bodies and other environmental resources.

“There can be no doubt that water bodies, wetlands, mangroves and other natural resources need to be protected. While construction of a road may be a necessity, such construction should not result in destruction of bio-diversity and other environmental resources, including water bodies and wetlands. Flood plains of river Sal also need to be protected. The studies referred to in the application support the need for such protection,” the bench said in a petition filed by activist Royla Fernandes.

The NGT directed constitution of a 10-member joint Committee. “The State PCB and SEIAA, Goa will be the nodal agency for coordination and compliance. A meeting of the Committee may be held within two weeks and after taking stock of the situation, plan of action may be prepared and executed. The Committee may also undertake visit to the site as early as possible. An action taken report may be filed within 3 months,” the bench said. The matter was listed for next hearing on Nov 10, 2021. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/construction-of-road-should-not-result-in-destruction-of-biodiversity-ngt/article34929239.ece  (23 June 2021)

In her petition, Fernandes had stated that Margao National Highway Western Bypass has already been built from Nuvem village in South Goa to Seraulim through wetlands and agricultural land. The petitioner stated that 2.75 km from Seraulim to Varca, yet to be constructed, will destroy a large area of wetlands, agricultural lands and waterbodies of these villages. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/goa-ngt-orders-formation-of-panel-to-study-highway-impact-7374690/  (25 June 2021)

8. West Bengal NGT order on EKW border “We … direct East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW) Authority … to demarcate the entire area of the East Kolkata wetlands after proper survey and thereafter proceed to demarcate the boundary of the said wetlands on the ground level by setting up pillars,” stated the order issued on Nov. 3 2021 by the two-member bench of Justice B. Amit Sthalekar and expert member Saibal Dasgupta. The order was in response to a petition filed by environmentalist Subhas Datta. The bench also said “EKWA may take the help of latest satellite map and carry out intensive ground truthing for boundary demarcation of EKW” and asked it “to complete this exercise and file status report … within six months”.

The tribunal has also asked the counsel for the MoEF to submit within four weeks the status of its financial contribution to execute the integrated management plan of EKW and the final approval of the plan as well so that the same can be put in operation at the earliest. The bench, based on Datta’s submission, asked the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation to expedite the biomining of old solid waste from the Mollar bheri falling within the wetland area and also complete the fencing around the water body within two months.

The bench has also asked the Calcutta Municipal Corp to file a fresh affidavit within four weeks bringing on record the current status of disposal of old waste in Dhapa. Its latest affidavit has not stated clearly that how much of old dumped garbage, called legacy waste, has been removed so far, the bench stated. It has also asked for the status reports about the actions taken regarding the number of alleged water body fills and illegal constructions within the area. Environmentalists have been demanding for a long time a well-demarcated boundary of the wetlands as innumerable violations, particularly constructions and encroachments, have allegedly been taking place; particularly on the fringe area of the wetland, in absence of a clear-cut demarcation of its boundary. https://www.telegraphindia.com/my-kolkata/news/ngt-order-on-wetland-border/cid/1837670  (7 Nov. 2021)

NGT asked the state environment department to send the revised integrated management plan of EKW to the MoEF for approval so that funds can then be released for the wetland’s up keep. MoEF had earlier asked the state environment department to revise the integrated management plan so that it confirms with the guidelines of the National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-Systems and resubmit it.

The case relates to the petition that activist Subhas Datta had filed for conservation of EKW. Datta sought steps for conservation and management of EKW, stop to all illegal activities within the EKW, remove all illegal and polluting plastic, rubber, leather and waste processing industries, convert land to its original character and relocate the waste dumping ground from Mollar Bheri area. On only 15% of the legacy waste dumped at Dhapa and Mollar bheri being biomined, the NGT has asked KMC and BMC to file the status report within two months. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/send-revised-ekw-plan-to-moef-ngt/articleshow/84047722.cms  (02 July 2021)

9. Telangana HC issues notices to authorities in lake encroachment case A two-judge panel of Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice MS Ramachandra Rao of the Telangana High Court ordered notices to the authorities in a PIL concerning the encroachment and pollution of Devuni Kunta Cheruvu in Asif Nagar, Hyderabad.

Hyderabad lakes have shrunk by upto 83% since 1967. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/exclusive-satellite-images-show-how-hyderabad-lakes-have-shrunk-upto-83-1967-156774

The HC had taken suo moto cognisance of a letter addressed to the court by Dr Lubna Sarwath as a PIL. The petitioner complained that the guidelines as provided under the Telangana Water, Land and Trees Act, 2002, (WALTA), has not been adhered to by the authorities concerned. The provisions of the Act mandate appointment of locals as WALTA members who are to appear in the WALTA authority meetings. https://telanganatoday.com/telangana-hc-issues-notices-to-authorities-in-lake-encroachment-case  (8 Jan. 2021)

10. Andhra Pradesh NGT directs Collector to inspect Beela wetlands Earlier the govt had handed over these lands to Nagarjuna Constructions Company (NCC) for establishing a Thermal Power Plant, but the govt cancelled it as locals protested. Again, NCC management tried to establish industrial park by managing some leaders, even this attempt failed. Now, NCC management is making efforts to start aquaculture on these lands. In this regard, Paryavarana Parirakshana Samithi, local fishermen and former secretary to the Govt of India (energy department), EAS Sharma filed a case before the NGT. After verifying details NGT directed district collector to inspect the lands.

The MEFCC and SACON conducted technical assessment on these lands and submitted a report in 2012 and also in 2016 and mentioned that these lands are important to protect ecological balance, environment and biodiversity. He said that previous revenue records classified these lands at Beela as wetlands. The collector said that they will submit their report to the govt soon. https://www.thehansindia.com/andhra-pradesh/ngt-directs-collector-to-inspect-beela-wetlands-705677 (9 Sep 2021)

Some other relevant judicial decisions

Odisha HC seeks satellite images of illegal shrimp farms In an order released on Aug 17 2021, the HC asked the collectors of the four districts to place the satellite maps before the court to indicate the exact locations of such illegal farms and hatcheries. The HC also directed the four district collectors to indicate with the help of the satellite images the action that has been taken to remove such illegal farms and confirm to the court that all those sites have been revisited on a weekly basis thereafter to ensure the demolished farms and hatcheries have not re-emerged there.

The bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar & Justice B P Routray said, “The status reports enclosing the satellite images, maps and all of the above information will be made available before the next date of hearing (Sep 23)… The status reports will be accompanied by a chart giving the details of the FIRs registered contemporaneous with every demolition action and showing the provisions under which the FIRs have been registered and what action was taken on the FIRs so registered”. The HC order came after a special sitting on the PIL for the restoration of the ecology of the two wetlands — Chilika Lake & Bhitarkanika — on Aug 14. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/cuttack/orissa-high-court-seeks-satellite-images-of-illegal-shrimp-farms/articleshow/85449211.cms (19 Aug 2021)

The Chilika Development Authority (CDA) started evicting illegal prawn gherries (enclosures) Feb 28, 2021 from Chilika lake. Around 349 ha were cleaned on the first day of the drive. In 2018-19, the CDA cleaned gherries in around 160 sq km area of the lake, official sources said.

The Supreme Court had on April 3, 2017 asked the chief justices of high courts in 15 states to take up the issue of conservation of ecology of important wetlands. Out of 26 major wetlands in 15 states, Chilika and Bhitarkanika National Park are from Odisha. The Odisha High Court then issued orders to the state govt on Jan 22, 2019 to evict prawn farms from these 2 wetlands. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/wildlife-biodiversity/odisha-starts-evicting-illegal-prawn-gherries-in-chilika-75703 (1 Mar 2021)

HC Orders Eviction Of Illegal Prawn Gherries The HC ordered eviction of illegal prawn gherries at Chilika, Bhitarkanika and other eco-sensitive wetland areas in Puri and Ganjam districts. While directing the Collectors of the convened districts to execute the decision taken at the meeting chaired by State Chief Secretary recently on illegal prawn gherries, the HC has asked the authorities to destroy the seized materials & machineries from the violators apart from filing criminal cases against them. https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/orissa-high-court-orders-eviction-of-illegal-prawn-gherries-from-chilika-bhitarkanika-538733 (30 Apr 2021)

The police registered criminal cases against 141 persons for allegedly encroaching upon protected forest land by erecting prawn dykes at the Bhitarkanika wetland site in Kendrapara district. The cases have been registered against the encroachers in the last 15 days, police said on June 19 2021.

The HC, on May 30, ordered the authorities to demolish all illegal prawn gherries at the wetland areas of Chilika and Bhitarkanika. The court also directed the authorities to destroy the materials and machinery seized from the prawn farm owners apart from filing criminal cases against the squatters. The directive came after hearing into a case registered suo motu by the court based on the SC’s order regarding the protection of wetlands. https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/criminal-cases-registered-against-wetland-encroachers-in-odisha/2105489  (19 June 2021)

An affidavit filed by CDA in High Court March 8, 2021 stated that over 15,500 ha in the lake have been illegally encroached upon by illegal prawn culture enclosures and ponds. More than 12,131 ha of the lake were under illegal prawn gherries, while around 1,440 ha under prawn culture ponds, in violation of the Centre’s Coastal Aquaculture Authority Act, 2005. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/environment/odisha-resumes-evicting-illegal-prawn-gherries-in-chilika-77648  (25 June 2021)

Bhim Singh Rawat (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

2 thoughts on “Top ten Judicial actions on India Wetlands-2021

  1. As per recent reports,the Govt of Maharashtra cabinet has decided to permit sand mining activities in all water beds,citing public interest.Once again the sand mafia will strike back,the environment,ecology,impact questions will fall on deaf ears.THE CRUSADORS BEWARe,The fight Starts Now


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