Take steps to declare Pallikaranai marsh as Ramsar site, says HC

Wants it to be also declared a bird sanctuary

The Madras High Court has directed the State government to take effective steps to declare the Pallikaranai marsh land in the city as a site protected under an intergovernmental treaty signed by members of United Nations at the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 for conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. India is a signatory to the convention which came into force in the country since 1982.

Justice N. Kirubakaran (since retired) also directed the government to explore the feasibility of declaring Pallikaranai marsh as a bird sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. He ordered that the site should be declared as a protected wetland, under the provisions of the Wetland Rules of 2017, forthwith so that the elaborate conservation measures listed out under the Rules could be implemented.

The judge ordered that non-forestry activities should be prohibited in the Pallikaranai marsh and unutilised lands allotted to government industries and institutions must be reclaimed. All institutions, industries and individuals who had been allotted any land identified as forming part of the Pallikaranai marsh, by a committee constituted for the purpose in the past, must be relocated immediately, he said.

Awareness campaigns

Further, the government was directed to conduct environmental awareness programmes and enlighten the people living around the marsh about the importance of the wetland and educate them about the activities that were detrimental to the habitat and ecology. He also ordered relocation of Perungudi and Alandur dumps to an alternative site and banned disposal of municipal solid waste, treated /untreated effluents or sewage into the marsh.

After directing the revenue officials to conduct a survey to identify encroachments, the judge said, all encroachers must be evicted and ‘patta’ (revenue documents to prove land ownership) obtained illegally must be cancelled. The judge wanted the government to complete fencing around the marsh land at the earliest and remove blocks in water channels. He said the marsh was meant for birds and insects and therefore the State must prevent encroachments in toto.

He called for a compliance report, with respect to the directions issued by him, by December 21. The directions were issued in public interest while dealing with an anticipatory bail petition filed by people accused of having usurped 66.70 acres of government land in Pallikaranai for a meagre amount of ₹66 crore.

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