Investigation into destruction of Malad mangrove begins

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jul 31, 2016 23:07 IST
BMC officials denied destroying mangroves and levelling the area to construct a chowki to park vehicles. (HT Photo)

The Mumbai suburban collectorate and state mangrove cell asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to explain the alleged destruction of mangroves at Evershine Nagar, Malad (West) by municipal workers.

HT had reported that Malad resident Sharique Raza filed a complaint with government agencies, stating that municipal workers destroyed a quarter-of-an-acre patch of mangroves adjacent to the creek, opposite Neelkanth apartments, by dumping debris at the site. BMC officials denied destroying mangroves and levelling the area to construct a chowki to park vehicles.

Read: HC suggests grievance forum to save wetlands

“Last week, officials from the state mangrove cell sent a notice to the BMC P-North ward office asking them to clarify whether mangrove trees had been destroyed at the site. After investigating the matter, we asked for details of the construction and levelling done at the site,” said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.

BMC officials said there were no mangroves on the land.

Read: BMC destroys Malad mangroves, resident registers complaint

“We will respond to the notices. The area belongs to the BMC. According to the old development plan and the revised draft DP 2034, the land is available for construction. We are the competent authority to carry out work on that land,” said an official.

Vasudevan said the cell collected samples from the area and sent it to the Institute of Wood and Science Technology in Bangalore to find out whether mangroves were present at the time of construction. “Prima facie, the area adjacent to the creek is a wetland patch. After we receive the results in a month, we can confirm whether there has been a violation,” said Vasudevan.

Mumbai suburban collectorate officials said that they will issue a show-cause notice to the BMC on Monday.

“After the HT report, our circle officers visited the site. We discussed the issue with the mangrove cell and a panchnama was drafted. On the basis of a 2005 survey of suburban wetlands, we observed mangroves in the area,” said Deependra Singh Kushwah, collector, Mumbai suburban.

“The matter will be investigated after the BMC responds in the next 15 days.”

Last week, in another case, the Bombay high court directed the state government to set up a redress mechanism within eight weeks to address complaints of destruction of wetlands quickly.

The Law

Noting the public interest litigation filed by Bombay Environment Action Group — a city-based NGO — in 2005, the Bombay high court banned the destruction of mangroves across the state and construction within 50m of them. After the NGO Vanashakti filed another PIL, the HC banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands in 2014.

What are wetlands?

Wetlands are areas that are either temporarily or permanently covered by water depending on the seasonal variability. Natural wetlands comprise creeks, estuaries, marshes, riverbanks, seashores, backwaters, coral reefs. Man-made lakes, saltpans, reservoirs, abandoned quarries and dams are also considered wetlands.

Why you should care about mangroves?

Wetlands stabilise the coastline, control erosion, provide a habitat for plant and animal species, prevent floods and filter groundwater. They regulate climate change by storing carbon. They contribute to the country’s economy by providing fishery resources, timber, wildlife resources, medicines and agricultural products.

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