The city has seen an average of 18 cases of mangrove destruction on private land every month this year. In the past four years, the city has witnessed an average of eight cases per month in private areas.
A preliminary report on mangrove destruction on private land revealed a total of 115 cases between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017, of which 74 cases were recorded between January and April this year and 21 cases were filed. However, not a single person has been arrested or convicted in any of the cases. This revelation is out just five days after the suburban collector initiated a survey to check mangrove destruction at private mangrove forests in Mumbai.
The report also states that since 2013, the city has seen 354 cases of mangrove destruction with 131 first-information-reports (FIRs) being filed, but no arrests or convictions in any of the cases.
Officials from the suburban collector’s office said the reports were being collated before action begins. Maximum cases are in the city’s suburbs – Charkop, Andheri, Dahisar, Erangal, Kandivli, Borivli, Malad-Marwe and Gorai.
“The violations were identified using satellite maps from 2005 to 2017 from the Maharashtra Remote Sensing Applications Centre (MRSAC), Nagpur. Over the next 12 days, our revenue and circle officers will be visiting the sites to check the extent of damage and initiate investigation in each case,” said Deependra Singh Kushwa, Mumbai suburban collector. “The local police will assist our teams and we will ensure that violators are punished. The results will be reflected in the near future.”
The destruction of mangrove forests across the state and construction within 50m of mangrove areas was banned by the Bombay high court in 2005, after a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by the NGO Bombay Environment Action Group.
Additionally, mangrove destruction is an offence under The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, which declares a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) in which debris dumping, land reclamation and bunding are restricted in order to protect the coastal environment. Mangroves are included in the most ecologically sensitive category.
Environmentalists said mangroves in Mumbai are the most sought after area for real-estate development. “The apathy of the government over the past decade has only emboldened the violators. The state machinery has fully colluded with the land mafia and everyone is making money at the cost of our coastal environment,” said Stalin D, director, NGO Vanashakti.