Justice N Kirubakaran (since retired) while passing orders on a plea pertaining for anticipatory bail, as it involved illegal transfer of marsh lands, invoked his power under Article 226 of the Constitution and issued the direction in public interest to protect the marsh lands. “India is a party to the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty that provides for the protection of wetlands. India became a signatory in the year 1982 and has 42 designated Ramsar sites that are bound by the regulatory framework aimed at protection of wetlands. An area can be designated as a Ramsar Site if it meets one of the nine qualifying criteria and Pallikaranai meets 7 out of these 9 criteria. The State government has been in the process of declaring Pallikaranai as a Ramsar site for over 10 years. This application should be expedited and declaration completed at the earliest,” the court held.
It also pointed out birds are an integral part of Pallikaranai and the government should consider the possibility of declaring the marsh as a birds sanctuary for added and focused protection for resident and migratory birds so that the competing space for birds for activities like roads, towers, etc. can be prevented.
Based on this, Justice Kirubakaran sought the State government to form a Committee for preservation of Pallikaranai with NGOs and environmentalist empowered under the Environmental Protection Act, 196, to frame an appropriate scheme to restore Pallikaranai marsh, regulate development around the marsh and monitor all developments. Also, while directing the State to complete the fencing around Pallikaranai marsh land, the court wanted the water block there removed by the PWD so that flow of water into marsh land is not affected.
The court also directed the government to relocate Perungudi and Alandur dump yard to an alternative site and prevent any disposal of municipal solid waste and treated /untreated effluents, sewage being let out by industries, housing complexes and the CMWSSB.
The court also sought the State to take up environmental awareness programmes for people living around the marsh enlightening them about the importance of Pallikaranai and educate them about the activities that are detrimental to habitat and ecology.