It Is a battle to protect over 250 hectares of green cover in Navi Mumbai. And it is being fought in the Bombay High Court.
On Monday, Navroz Seervai, counsel for non-governmental organisation Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG), brought to the notice of the high court a letter written on November 14, 2006, to the Urban Development Department by D.P. Samant, chief and planner with the City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco).
In the letter, Samant says that of the total 1,741.75 hectares of mangrove land under Cidco, 1,485.34 hectares can be declared as forest and handed over to the forest department.
The remaining 256.4 hectares — 17 per cent of the land — should not be declared as mangroves and should be retained by Cidco for development purposes, it adds.
The court was hearing a notice of motion filed by the civic body seeking permission to cut mangroves in its holding ponds to remove sludge, a plea the BEAG had opposed.
On October 6, 2005, the HC had directed the state government to notify mangroves area as protected forests.
In September 2006, the government issued a notification declaring an area admeasuring approximately 60 sq km in the state as “protected forests”.
Subsequently, the state sought views of local authorities like the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) and Cidco on how much of the notified land falling under their jurisdiction they would accept as protected forest.
Cidco replied saying that 256.4 hectares need not be declared as protected forests.
In its letter to the government, it said that Cidco needed to retain 87 plots completely and 13 plots partially, for developmental purposes.
The plots are covered by mangroves or mud flats.
Meanwhile, in the issue of removing mangroves to clean ponds in Navi Mumbai, counsel for the NMMC Ram Apte told the division bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud on Monday that of all the nine holding ponds, mangroves would be damaged only in two ponds while the sludge was being removed.
The NMMC had filed a notice of motion seeking permission to cut such mangroves.
“In two of these ponds, it is not possible to clear the water without damaging the mangroves,” argued Apte. The HC will next hear the matter on August 10.