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Union Ministry moves apex court

Special Correspondent

High Court's interim stay of closure notice to mangrove theme park


Ministry has special powers under EPA Act, says petition

‘State government had categorised the area under CRZ-1'


KOCHI: Challenging the Kerala High Court's interim order on the Pappinissery mangrove theme park, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court.

The High Court had on August 19 stayed a closure notice served by the Ministry on the theme park, owned by the Pappinissery Eco Tourism Society, on July 14. The park has now been reopened.

The petition urged the apex court to vacate the stay order contending that the High Court had not considered the special powers given to the Ministry under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986. The High Court, while ordering the stay on the Ministry's closure order, had not considered the fact that the Coastal Zone Management Plan of the State government had categorised the area under CRZ-1. The petition pointed out that though the High Court order was interim in nature, it had, in effect, granted a permanent stay to the Pappinissery Eco Tourism Society, controlled by the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

The Ministry had, on complaints by Congress leader K. Sudhakaran and several environmental activists, ordered stoppage of all activities in the mangrove park as it was found that the park came under the Coastal Regulation Zone category 1 (CRZ-1). CRZ-1 — which regulates coastal areas with highly sensitive ecology — allows no development or construction activities except certain strategically critical ones.

Verification

The SLP listed a series of steps taken by the Ministry to verify the violations in the CRZ-1 area before it ordered closure of the park. It said officials sent out by the Ministry had found several CRZ violations as well as breaking of the rules of the Environmental Protection Act. The park authorities had made modifications to the landscape; erected mud platforms; widened roads and paths; built a children's play area, observer towers, meeting halls, a walkway and an information centre. The closure order was based on the report of the regional chief conservator of forests, Bangalore.

The closure was ordered under Section 5 of the EPA which gave the Ministry the powers to order the closure of an entity that was found to have violated the EPA provisions. “Therefore, the High Court was in error when it issued an order staying the directions passed by the MoEF stopping all activities in the areas which was in violation of CRZ notification. The High Court was also in error when it glossed over the provisions of the Environment Protection Act 1986, particularly Section 5 which gives the power to the Central Government to issue directions to stop activities which are in breach of any laws,” the SLP stated.

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