Environmental activists have filed complaints with the state mangrove cell and state government about large-scale destruction of mangroves along a kilometre-long stretch near Khar Danda beach over the last three years.
Watchdog Foundation, which filed the complaint, said it has satellite images from October 2013 and June 2016 that shows a decline in forest cover. “Reckless developmental activities without any concern for the environment, has led to drop in 50% of mangrove cover at this suburban mangrove patch just ahead of Carter Road in Bandra,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation.
Pimenta added that encroachments on the southern end of the beach have led to the destruction of over 500 to 600 mangrove trees. “The tendency on the part of the authorities to act only when complaints are filed needs to be curbed and more proactive measures are needed in the city to safeguard mangroves,” said Pimenta.
After a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Bombay Environment Action Group — a city-based NGO — in 2005, the Bombay High Court banned the destruction of mangroves across the state and construction within 50m of them. After NGO Vanashakti filed another PIL, the court banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands in 2014.
Officials from the state mangrove cell and the district collectorate said that they were investigating the matter. “We received the complaint and deputed forest officers to carry out a survey at the site to check whether mangrove trees existed,” said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests, state mangrove cell.
“We have received the complaint and written to the state mangrove cell to file a punchnama identifying where the mangroves were and how many have been destroyed since they can provide the technical details,” said Navnath Jare, sub-divisional officer, western suburbs. “As per the Bombay HC order from 2005, we have also asked for the satellite images of the site and action will be carried out if a violation is observed.”
According to the state mangrove cell, Mumbai currently has 5,800 hectares (ha) of mangrove cover – 4,000 ha on government-owned land and 1800 ha in private areas. Navi Mumbai and the eastern end of the Thane creek have a total cover of 1471 ha and 1500 ha was recorded at the western bank of Thane creek.
Zero convictions in mangrove destruction cases in 4 years
Since the inception of the state mangrove cell in 2012, there have only been seven prosecution cases against offenders in courts for the destruction of mangroves in and around Mumbai in forested areas, according to data from the cell.
While there have been a total of 115 offence cases registered from the city, there has not been a single conviction in the past four years.
As per data available with the Konkan Divisional Commissioner’s office,
•More than 50 cases of mangrove destruction between July 2015 and August 2016 remain pending.
•Of these, 22 cases were from suburban Mumbai, 12 from Thane, nine from Navi Mumbai, five cases from Mira-Bhayander and remaining from Sindhudurg and Raigad districts.
•Less than 10 first information report (FIR) were filed against offenders in the entire Konkan region.
Why you should care
Mangroves act as a buffer between land and sea, protecting the land from erosion
Mangroves absorb the impact of cyclones
They are a spawning ground for a variety of marine animals
Mangroves are also carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it.