Criminal cases were filed against the owners of 53 Versova bungalows for illegally expanding their homes by destroying mangrove forests.
The Mumbai suburban collector had asked the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) to file cases against the owners a fortnight ago. But after the housing authority failed to do it, the collector filed FIRs on Sunday evening.
“The FIR was filed under violations of sections such as land reclamation, construction through illegal extensions and dumping of waste on ecologically sensitive land under the Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1986. A full list of violators was shared with the police and we were told they will begin investigations into the matter,” said Babasaheb Pardhe, sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), Mumbai suburban.
The case was first investigated in September when the mangrove cell submitted a report to the collectors’ office, regarding destruction of mangroves by actor Kapil Sharma, who is accused of encroaching into mangrove forests to expand his office. On September 18, the Andheri tehsildar (revenue official) ensured that an FIR was filed against Sharma by the Versova police.
The EPA defines a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) where all industrial and other activities such as the discharge of untreated water and effluents, dumping of waste, land reclamation and bunding, are restricted in order to protect the coastal environment.
“Since we did not receive any communication from Mhada, it was our duty to follow up on the environmental violation. I directed the SDM to file FIRs against all violators and it was done on Sunday,” said Deependra Singh Kushwa, Mumbai suburban collector. “The illegal extensions in the form of compound walls, gardens etc. will all be razed over the next two weeks.”
He said Mhada and BMC will be questioned as to why prior action was not taken by them in the matter. “For the past four months, every agency has been made part of the investigation to identify the violation. However, the final action was drafted after a lot of back and forth with all bodies,” said Kushwa. “We will be drawing up a final report and asking agencies involved to submit their stand. The incident should act as a deterrent for violators not to repeat such environmental violations in the future.”
A duty officer from the Versova police station confirmed that an FIR was filed under EPA with crime registration number (CR) – 12/17. “We will be initiating an inquiry into the matter in the coming days,” the official said.