Almost two years after activists began their fight against destruction of mangroves in Dahisar, police officials from MHB colony police station finally arrested advocate Deepak Joshi for environmental damage.
“Joshi was arrested on Sunday and we produced him in the Borivli court, following which he was released on bail. He was booked under the relevant sections of the Environment Protection Act. We have seized one of the three dumpers that were used by the accused and are also searching for his two accomplices,” said Assistant Police Inspector Mukund Patil of the MHB colony police station.
Residents had filed a first information report (FIR) against Joshi, the advocate of a Kandivli-based builder, who has been repairing a defunct bund. “His arrest is a case of ‘better late than never’. I hope the other goons are also caught soon and interrogated,” said Debi Goenka of the Conservation Action Trust (CAT). Residents allege that Joshi and his people had threatened them as well.
On May 3, members of CAT and New Link Road Residents’ Forum along with government officials were conducting a survey to carry out an audit of the mangroves destroyed, when around 50 people surrounded and allegedly threatened them. “Prior to the physical inspection of the destruction, we, along with government officials as well as advocate Joshi, were at the tehsildar’s office where we filed a written complaint of the environmental damage,” said Harish Pandey from the forum.
Pandey alleged that when the goons surrounded them at the site, the only person they could recognise was Joshi. “The goons were not locals. Joshi is the one who pointed us out to them, instigated them and threatened us after which we were collared. We then filed a complaint with the police,” said Goenka.
The members had taken pictures of the destruction and a 60 ft road that was constructed in the middle of the mangrove stretch. “They frisked us. Our cameras were snatched and they erased all the photographs that would stand as evidence,” added Goenka.
Over the past year, activists have been tracking mangrove destruction as well as trucks dumping mud, stones and other kinds of concrete debris on the edges of the mangrove stretch.
On the pretext of repairing the bund, about 20 acres of mangroves have been destroyed and seawater inlets have been blocked, turning green patches brown, allege the activists.
The builder began repairs of the defunct bund on April 10, 1993, following a Supreme Court ruling in his favour. However, the ruling directed the petitioner to not destroy the mangroves.