The forest department has sent eviction notices to about 1,500 illegal structures that have come up in mangrove forests in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai over the last two months.
The mangrove cell of the forest department identified the encroachments which are spread across more than 1% of the city’s protected mangrove cover, officials said. Mumbai currently has 5,800 hectares (ha) of mangrove cover – 4,000 ha on government-owned land and 1800 ha in private areas.
Officials said that they will be demolished by the end of this year if residents failed to vacate the shanties. “We completed the process of issuing notices on Tuesday to all violators residing illegally at protected wetland areas under the jurisdiction of the state mangrove cell,” said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests, state mangrove cell. “If violators fail to comply, we will begin the demolition process of the shanties from October onwards.”
He added that most violations were observed from suburban areas such as - Malad-Malwani, Chitta camp, Trombay, Kannamwar Nagar, Vijholri, Gorai, Borivali, Kandivali, some areas around Colaba and remaining from parts of Navi Mumbai. “After removing the encroachments this year, we will be constructing a compound wall to restrict people from entering these wetlands,” said Vasudevan.
Over the last two years, the cell had removed a total of 3000 shanties from protected wetland areas in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai but some of the shanties resettled.
While there have been a total of 115 offence cases registered from the city regarding destruction of mangroves, there has not been a single conviction. According to the report from the cell, in the last four years, destruction of wetlands takes the form of debris dumping and encroachments, which accounted for 80% the cases while the remaining 20% were attributed to hacking and burning of mangrove swamps.
The destruction of mangrove forests across the state and construction within 50m of mangrove areas was banned by the Bombay high court in 2005, after a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by the NGO Bombay Environment Action Group. In 2014, after Vanashakti filed another PIL on the protection of wetlands, the HC banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands.