The state’s coastal agency has decided to set up committees in each of the five coastal districts of Maharashtra to monitor and act against ecological damage in the 720-km-long coastline.
The committees, headed by district collectors, will monitor the coastline and take action against illegal activities such as hacking of mangroves, construction, mining and sand dredging. The decision to set up the district committees was taken at the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) meeting on Friday, following complaints about hacking of mangroves in Mumbai and Thane and illegal mining, sand dredging in Raigad.
“The collector will not only ensure that projects, which have a MCZMA clearance, operate in those areas but will also take proactive action against illegal mining, sand dredging and construction,” said a senior bureaucrat and member of the MCZMA, requesting anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media as the state Legislature is in session.
“Any environment damage like sudden hacking of mangroves will lead to an adverse note in the annual confidential report of the collector,”the bureaucrat added.The district-level committees will be assisted by two non-governmental organisations.
It will also be able to lodge criminal complaints under the Environment Protection Act.
The state government has been under criticism from various quarters for its lax monitoring of the ecology. The Opposition legislators had last week berated the state for environment damage in Raigad because of polluting industries and illegal sand dredging.
This month, environmentalist and managing trustee of Awaaz Foundation, Sumaira Abdulali, was attacked on her way back from Raigad after inspecting an illegal sand-dredging site.
“The environment degradation in Raigad is impossible to ignore,” said Peasants and Workers Party legislator Meenakshi Patil. “Our rivers are dumped with chemicals and sand dredging will eventually destroy our beaches.”
MCZMA members said one of the main problems was that at the local level, authorities lack the sense of ecological responsibility.