Unabated destruction of mangroves continues in the city with zero deterrence for violators, either through arrests or convictions, according to state government data.
In the first three months of this year, Mumbai has seen 63 cases of mangrove destruction — 57 on private land (under the revenue department) and six cases on government land (forest department) — revealed data from the Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Unit under the state mangrove cell.
Violators have gone undetected because no arrests have been made in any of the cases yet. First-information-reports (FIRs) were filed in all six cases on government land, but action is yet to be taken on private land cases. The violations were identified mostly along the western and central suburbs of Mumbai like Manori-Gorai, Marwe, Kandivli, Borivli, Charkop, Chitta camp, Kannamwar Nagar, parts of the eastern suburbs like Chedda Nagar in Chembur and all the way up to Trombay.
The state mangrove cell started collating data on mangrove destruction cases from April 2016 onwards and between April and December last year, Mumbai saw 244 mangrove destruction cases with no arrests or convictions in all cases. Mumbai currently has 5,800 hectares (ha) of mangrove cover — 4,000 ha on government-owned land and 1,800 ha in private areas.
The details come less than a week after the government decided to constitute a task force and setup a helpline to curb the destruction of mangroves in coastal areas of Mumbai, Thane and other parts of the state. Mangroves protect the city from coastal inundation and harbour a variety of flora and fauna.
“We received 73 complaints of mangrove destruction on private land, of which 57 were identified as cases since many complaints were repetitive. Violations included debris dumping and illegal shanties cropping up on mangrove land, both violations under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 and laws prohibiting mangrove destruction by the Bombay high court (HC),” said Makarand Ghodke, assistant conservator of forests, Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Unit. “On government land, we removed 850 shanties from Chedda Nagar, Chembur over the past two weeks and mangrove restoration programmes will be carried out there.”
A list of the cases and survey numbers of each location will be submitted to the wetland grievance redressal committee formed by the Bombay HC last year, and the Mumbai suburban collectors’ office. “Since most cases fall under private land, action needs to be taken by the revenue department under the suburban collectors’ directive,” said Ghodke.
Officials from district collector’s office said an inquiry into the matter will be conducted. “Once we receive the list of cases we will cross-verify them through our circle officers and initiate action immediately,” said Deependra Singh Kushwa, Mumbai suburban collector.
“The state machinery has helped the land mafia by sending only junior officers to file FIRs knowing very well that even a magistrate court will dismiss the case. It is a clear indication of collision between the construction mafia and government departments. Over 500 cases are pending for action,” said Stalin D, director, NGO Vanashakti.