Mangrove destruction on private land (under the revenue department) that has gone undetected over the past 12 years will now be identified by the suburban collector’s office.
In a first, revenue officials are surveying 1,800 hectares of private land in Mumbai using satellite maps from 2005 to 2017 from the Maharashtra Remote Sensing Applications Centre (MRSAC), Nagpur to check mangrove destruction in the city.
Many cases in private areas, especially involving builders, have gone undetected — structures such as housing complexes, apartments and several private projects have been built on protected land. Mangrove trees are salt-tolerant plants that help absorb pollutants and reduce chances of flooding. Destroying them is an offence.
The city has a total of 5,800 hectares (ha) of mangrove cover – 4,000 ha on government-owned land and 1,800 ha in private areas.
The suburban collector on Monday told HT that revenue officers across suburban Mumbai have begun surveying 21 locations in the western suburbs and eight locations in the eastern suburbs to spot violations with the help of satellite maps.
“The revenue officers have been given 15 days from Monday finish the job. They will check whether there are violations and file punchnamas (reports) in each case,” said Deependra Singh Kushwa, Mumbai suburban collector.
He added that the major violations have been observed at Charkop, Andheri, Dahisar, Erangal, Malad-Marwe and Gorai. “The officers will first check the survey number of the area followed by whether the violation is less than 50 metres from mangroves. Then see if the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) or the state mangrove cell has given permission for the construction. If all the violations still stand then the local police will be asked to file an FIR,” said Kushwa.
Experts said most cases of mangrove destruction on private land are the work of builders greedy for space. “The builder lobby joined hands with politicians making it a vicious cycle that is affecting the environment,” said Arvind Untawale, executive secretary of the Mangrove Society of India. “Over the last two decades, we have studied Mumbai’s mangroves and the sole reason these trees have been destroyed is for construction of houses. There are massive apartment buildings that stand amid thick mangrove cover.”
The collector said regular follow-ups with the civic body and the local police will be done to expedite the process of identifying violators.
“The charge sheet percentage for such cases is increasing but the process of removing debris needs improvement,” said Kushwa. “The survey will be completed by this month end and then we plan to establish real-time satellite imagery from private mangrove areas to increase deterrence.”