NGT questions appointment of NIO to identify wetlands

Panjim: Four months after State government appointed National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) as expert agency for identification of wetlands, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Principal Bench has raised question over the engagement of NIO.

The Goa State Wetland Authority on August 20 selected NIO as expert agency for identification of wetlands and preparation of “Brief Documents” along with activities as allowed and prohibited under Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017, at the earliest. NIO, however, sought one year time to achieve their aim and to complete the process in holistic manner.

When the matter came up for hearing on December 3, NGT found that the progress made in the matter is “grossly inadequate”.

“Considering the nature of the task regarding which guidelines already exist either in the Central Wetlands Rules, 2017 or similar rules of the State, we are unable to understand as to why the NIO should be engaged for the purpose of identification of wetlands,” NGT said.

“We get the distinct impression that the regulatory authorities like the State Wetland Authority, the State Biodiversity, State Environment Department are abdicating their responsibilities,” it added.

As such, besides directing submission of further report in respect of the exercise being undertaken, NGT has directed personal presence of the Member Secretary of the State Biodiversity Board, the State Wetland Authority and the Director of the State Environment Department on the next date of hearing which is January 23, 2020.

Meanwhile, based on the inputs from local bodies, NIO has already commenced work in 35 water bodies and initial reports are done with respect to the said water bodies.

“Upon commencement of the work, NIO prioritised the Wetlands as per their administrative and statutory jurisdiction and primary preference was given to the water bodies identified by the State Authority,” State informed NGT. [H]