A day after the suburban revenue department received a report from the state mangrove cell regarding the alleged destruction of mangroves by comedian-actor Kapil Sharma, the Versova police on Saturday night filed a first information report against Sharma on a complaint from the Andheri tehsildar. In the FIR, Sharma is accused of violating the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
This is the second FIR against Sharma since he took to Twitter last week to accuse an unnamed BMC official of demanding a Rs 5 lakh bribe from him. Rather than help his cause, the misjudged tweet has attracted government scrutiny against Sharma and his neighbours.
On September 13, the BMC filed an FIR against Sharma, actor Irrfan Khan and four others, including a builder, under Section 53(7) of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning (MRTP) Act for allegedly making illegal alterations at Dev Land Housing (DLH) Enclave, a residential building at Oshiwara.
HT had reported on the same day that the mangrove cell had confirmed there had been violations by owners of 50 to 60 bungalows single-storey houses; they had allegedly encroached 10 metres into wetlands over the past three years, violating a Bombay high court order from 2005.
On September 10, activists filed complaints against Sharma and his neighbours for violating environmental laws by dumping debris and destroying mangroves at SV Patel Nagar at Versova, Andheri (West).
“After receiving the report, we found that the mangrove cell had highlighted the violation at Sharma’s plot. Hence, we instructed the police to file an FIR at 11.30pm on Saturday night,” said Shivaji Chaure, acting tehsildar, revenue department, Andheri. “There has been a violation of Bombay high court rules, the Environment Protection Act and the Forest Act, and the violator has been booked. Mangroves were destroyed along a 400-metre stretch and debris dumped 10 metres inside wetlands. ”
Officials from the district collectorate have asked the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), which owns the land, for a list of residents of the remaining bungalows along the 400m stretch.
“The sub-divisional magistrate is investigating individual plots and violations at each of them. After we receive the names of other residents of the area, the case will be investigated further. As of now, an FIR has been filed only against Sharma,” said Deependra Singh Kushwa, collector, Mumbai suburban.
Noting a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the Bombay Environment Action Group — a city NGO — in 2005, the high court had banned the destruction of mangroves across the state and barred construction within 50 metres of them. After NGO Vanashakti filed another PIL, the high court banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands in 2014.
Owners of 50 to 60 homes face probe
Citing violations under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, officials from the state mangrove cell, in a report submitted to the revenue department, said the owners of 50 to 60 houses had encroached onto wetlands along a 400m stretch at Versova.
“While the owners of some houses have made extensions to existing properties, others have either dumped garbage or treated the area as their backyard,” said Makarand Ghotke, assistant conservator of forests, state mangrove cell. He added that the area was surveyed with the help of satellite maps, which showed that mangroves had existed there until a few years ago.