After Hindustan Times reported that more than 500 vehicles were illegally parked at wetlands in Madh, Malad (West), on Wednesday, a first information report (FIR) was filed against the landowner of the area for alleged destruction of mangroves.
Officials also asked the officials to remove all the vehicles from the site.
Citing a violation of Bombay high court orders and Environment Protection Act, 1986, the Borivali revenue officials directed the Malwani police on Wednesday to book a case against the offender. “After the report was published in the newspaper, we directed our circle officers to survey the area. As per their report, there was a clear violation by the landowner,” said Archana Mule, Borivali tehsildar (revenue officer). “The land belongs to the state and the owner could not provide documents to prove his stand.”
Officials from the Malwani police station confirmed that a case has been registered against the landowner on Wednesday and they were investigating the matter. “No arrests have been made but our officers have visited the site and will take necessary action,” said a senior official of Malwani police station.
HT reported on Wednesday that non-profit organisation Watchdog Foundation had filed complaints with the district collectorate and state mangrove cell on Saturday, about on-going debris dumping at the site and the presence of a ready-mix-concrete (RMC) plant causing damage to existing mangrove trees along with several cabs parked amid wetlands near Resort Hotel, close to Aksa beach, on Madh-Marwe road.
Mule added that the more than one acre area was leased out to a private taxi aggregator for parking.
“We have instructed the police to take action and remove all the vehicles from site,” she said, adding, “The debris dumping is being done on a private plot for which all permissions have been taken by the owners. Both these sites, the RMC plant and the area where debris is being dumped are more than 50 metres away from wetlands.”
Noting the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Bombay Environment Action Group — a city-based NGO — in 2005, the Bombay HC banned the destruction of state-wide mangroves and construction within a 50-metre radius. After Vanashakti filed another PIL, the HC banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands in 2014.
Members from Watchdog Foundation said that the FIR will work as a deterrence.
“Since the FIR is under the provision of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 and the punishment is more than three years, it automatically limits the chances for future violations,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation. “The police need to be more sensitive in such cases as it is unbelievable that they were unaware of such a massive violation.”
According to the Konkan divisional commissioner’s office, there have been 500 complaints over mangrove destruction against unidentified people in the Konkan region in the past one year, of which there has been an enquiry in 335 cases, which have been finalised. However, 165 cases are still pending.
Wetland cases are top priority, says Mumbai suburban collector
“We have already reduced the number of pending cases by initiating action for immediate complaints. A three-fold approach is being used to tackle mangrove destruction cases. First, the cognisance and rectification of a case is observed with the help of the mangrove cell. Second, we write to the civic body for removal of debris and lastly the landowner is directed to restore the mangroves,” said Deependra Singh Kushwa, Mumbai suburban collector.
What are wetlands?
Wetlands are areas of land that are either temporarily or permanently covered by water depending on the season. Natural wetlands comprise creeks, estuaries, marshes, riverbanks, seashores, backwaters, coral reefs. Manmade lakes, saltpans, reservoirs, abandoned quarries and dams are also considered as wetlands.
What you should care
Wetlands stabilise the coastline, control erosion, provide habitat for plant and animal species, prevent floods and purify groundwater. They also regulate climate change by storing carbon. Besides, they also contribute to the country’s economy by providing fishery resources, timber, wildlife resources, medicines and agricultural products.