Unidentified accused have destroyed more than 200 mangrove trees at Vashi’s mini seashore over the past few weeks, said environmentalists.
The accused used some chemicals to wither nearly 170 trees at the Vashi end of the holding pond and more than 30 other isolated trees towards the Kopar Khairane end of the pond, they said.
Jitin Bhagat, 33, a local activist from Vashi, said, “The lifespan of a mangrove tree is 45 to 50 years. The trees that have withered here are not even 20 years old. We are sure that they have been destroyed by those with vested interests.”
“The mini seashore area is surrounded by mangrove trees. The trees outside the holding pond are intact. Then why have only those trees around the pond withered?” he said.
While hearing a PIL filed by Navi Mumbai Environment Preservation Society (NMEPS), a non-governmental organisation, the Bombay high court, in August last year, told the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC), City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) and the Maharashtra forest department to protect mangroves in areas under their jurisdiction. The HC also asked the Navi Mumbai police and the three agencies to appoint a nodal officer to protect such trees.
Hemant Sharma, 46, the socio-legal head of Sahayak NGO, said, “We suspect the mangroves are being strategically destroyed to start commercial activities in the area. The presence of mangroves may prove to be a hurdle to start commercial activities in the eco-sensitive area. So a section people with vested interest have started calculative destruction of the mangroves.”
Recently, after acquiring permission from the NMMC, boat ride services were started in the seashore area to attract tourists. “The NMMC should take measures to protect the mangroves apart from trying to generate revenue from such commercial activities. They should also put security guards to protect such resources in this area,” said Sharma.
NMMC officials remained unavailable to comment.
Threat to biodiversity
Residents have also started littering the pond by dumping garbage, plastic plates, thermocol, liquor bottles, among others, into the water body. These materials are posing a threat to the pond’s biodiversity, said activists.
Jagdish Mane, 35, a Vashi resident, said, “Garbage being dumped into the pond has threatened the pond’s biodiversity. There have been several instances of dead fishes being spotted on the water body’s surface.”
“You will see mounds of garbage and broken bottles accumulated around the pond. We don’t know why the NMMC is turning a blind eye to this issue,” he said.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Noting the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Bombay Environment Action Group in 2005, the Bombay High Court (HC) banned the destruction of state-wide mangroves and construction within 50-m of them. After NGO Vanashakti filed another PIL, the HC banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands in 2014.
DESTRUCTION OF MANGROVES IN NAVI MUMBAI
- Around 500 mangrove trees along the Vashi creek at Kopar Khairane’s Sector 19 were destroyed by unidentified people a few months ago. Water enters that area from the creek and some local fishermen have now started fishing there.
- Several mangroves trees were cut near DPS School in Nerul and near TS Chanakya junction along Palm Beach road in 2014. Environmentalists and NGOs have raised their voice against it and asked the authorities to ensure safety of such trees.
- Many mangrove trees were cut by unidentified people near Mansarovar railway station around two months ago. To destroy the mangroves, the culprits constructed concrete walls amidst mangrove trees to prevent them from getting watered.
- Some fishermen illegally built concrete structures in mangrove areas. While the forest department demolished 66 such constructions last year, they have served notice to 36 of them so far this year.