Approach coastal zone authority, HC tells CIDCO

In a petition by the City Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) seeking removal of mangroves that cover 80 per cent of the 220 hectares of holding ponds in Navi Mumbai, Bombay High Court Wednesday directed it to make an application before the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) that will, after a site inspection, make the necessary recommendation to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

CIDCO had moved court seeking permission to remove mangrove cover from the six holding ponds in the Dronagiri node for desilting. It submitted that the Dronagri node, opened for development in 1989, comprises mainly residential, port-based industries and warehousing over about 64 acres. The holding ponds are connected with channels to discharge storm water during high tide.

CIDCO's counsel G S Hegde told the court that the growth of mangroves in holding ponds cannot be covered by a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification of January 2011, as it cannot be held as natural growth of mangrove under the notification. Although the notification had forbidden removal of mangroves from ponds, the notification did not use the word "holding" ponds. CIDCO contended that it, therefore, did not require the sanction of MoEF to remove the mangroves.

MoEF counsel Rui Rodrigues said the ponds, as stated in the notification, would cover all ponds including holding ponds and hence, CIDCO cannot proceed with destruction of mangroves. Holding ponds are also affected by tidal events, Rodrigues said countering CIDCO's claim that mangroves on holding ponds are not natural.

In 2010, Bombay High Court, in a PIL filed by Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG), had imposed a ban on "non-forest activities" in mangrove areas in the state.

BEAG, while opposing CIDCO's plea, referred to the CRZ notification of 2011, which said mangrove areas in excess of 1,000 sq m were classified as CRZ-1 and required a buffer zone of 50 m. Desilting the holding ponds would result in the destruction of 8,80,000 fully grown mangroves and hence it should not be allowed, it had contended.

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