Every day, yellow excavators rip fragile mangroves in the protected area beyond Thane’s Balkom village. Thane’s largest mangrove patch is being furiously destroyed and already two illegal aquaculture pits and three sheds have replaced parts of it.
A buffer between land and sea, mangroves protect the city from flooding by absorbing excess rainwater. The Bombay High Court had, two years ago, prohibited any construction up to 50 mt around mangroves area.
“Mangroves double up as a sink — when it rains, they absorb the excess rainwater and prevent flooding,” Agrawal, adding that the city already has a dearth of natural storm water drains, said Rishi Aggarwaal, Joint Secretary, Mangrove Society of India, Mumbai.
A resident of Dadlani locality in Balkom said: “Nine months ago, I would look out of my window and it was all mangroves. I was shocked to see such large-scale destruction. When I approached my neighbours, they said that if their building was not being harmed, they didn’t care.”
A water pipeline runs through the Dadlani-Balkom mangroves and two machines hack the green cover on either side.
Ramnayak Bole, who is making aquaculture pits, said: “The property is mine and the collector’s office has given me permission to make aquaculture pits.”
However, Thane collector S.S. Zende denied this. “We have not given permission for any aquaculture pits. Though we don’t have a flying squad, we will look into the matter immediately,” Zende said.
Environmentalists argue that aquaculture will affect ecological balance. “This is a clear violation. Chemicals will be added to the pits and the water will be flushed into the mangroves will destroy them,” said Aggarwaal.
Beside the aquaculture pits, sheds have come up. There are already three sheds and more area is being rapidly cleared.
“Every day, people load cut mangroves in trucks and wash the roads once they are done,” said a resident.
It is believed that mangroves which spanned an approximate area of 10 sq mt on either side of the water pipe have been axed. “The area cleared so far is the size of two badminton courts,” the resident added.
One of the sheds is owned by Mika Steel Furniture. Shiv Raj, the owner, said: “I did not realise it was unauthorised when I purchased the shed, now I am stuck.