The Supreme Court bench of justices Madan B.Lokur and Prafulla C Pant, on Friday, directed the Centre to notify the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016 on or before June 30, 2017. “There has to be some finality to the publication of the Rules, as the matter has been pending with the Centre for long”, the bench observed.
A wetland is land covered by water. Wetlands include marshes, ponds, the edge of lakes, oceans, delta at the mouth of a river, and low-lying areas that frequently flood. Wetlands play an important role in maintaining ecological balance.
Important wetlands across the world are known as Ramsar sites. Ramsar is a city in Iran, where in 1971, an international Convention for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, was signed on February 2, which is observed as the World Wetlands Day. It was originally contracted by seven countries when it came into force on December 21, 1975. The number of contracting parties rose to 169, the number of designated sites in the world to 2000 in 2015. India ratified the Convention on February 1, 1982, and there are 26 Ramsar sites in the country, with 689, 131 hectares. On Friday, the Supreme Court bench directed the Centre to give specific details about the steps taken to preserve these 26 sites.
The bench also observed that there is no justification why the Centre should not have taken prompt action and constituted the committee for the purpose of finalizing the rules much earlier.
The Draft Rules were made available to the public for inviting objections/suggestions in March 2016. As many as 175 comments were received. The Centre constituted a committee to examine these comments, but gave it only 45 days to report.
The bench also took note of the fact that the Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority’s term is expiring onFebruary 14, 2017, and a fresh notification will be issued before that.
The bench shared the apprehension of the petitioner, M.K.Balakrishnan and others, that there is a possibility that some of the wetlands may disappear with the passage of time, due to neglect and indifference by the authorities, who may connive at constant encroachment.
The bench, therefore, directed the application of the principles of Rule 4 of the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 to the 2, 01, 503 wetlands in the country, that have been mapped by the Centre.
The bench has directed listing of the matter for monitoring, on April 3.
Read the order here.
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