A complaint has been filed by an NGO against destruction of mangroves along Palm Beach Road, Nerul, Navi Mumbai, on Wednesday.
Local residents brought the destruction to the notice of Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW), which filed a complaint on the forest department’s helpline number 1926 on Wednesday morning.
“A thick patch of mangroves has been hacked and according to the pictures we took from the site, it can be clearly seen that a patch has been burnt to remove the trees,” said Pawan Sharma, founder, RAWW. “Considering that a festival like Mahashivratri is around the corner, a lot of devotees enter thick forest areas with contraband substances during this time. We have spotted encroachments within the mangrove cover as well.”
According to state mangrove cell, there are 1,471 hectare of mangrove forests in government-owned land in Navi Mumbai, which are protected by the law. After a public interest litigation (PIL) by Bombay Environment Action Group — an NGO in Mumbai — in 2005, the Bombay high court had banned destruction of mangroves across the state and construction within 50m of them. After environment group Vanashakti filed another PIL, the HC banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands in 2014.
Officials from the state mangrove cell said they surveyed the site as soon as they received the complaint on Wednesday. “Prima facie, it does not seem like a violation as the cell has recently permitted a power distribution company to set up high tension wires there. Mangroves needed to be pruned there to avoid untoward incidents but they were not allowed to hack trees,” said Makarand Ghodke, assistant conservator of forest, Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Unit. “I will personally visit the location on Thursday and check if contractors employed by the power distribution company have violated environmental laws.”
Environmentalists said mangroves along the Palm Beach Road are the most vulnerable. “This area is being desperately sought after by the land mafia. To start construction they remove mangroves during the night,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti. “The land falls under the CRZ I and lies on one end of the creek, so even a small construction can lead to flooding during the monsoon.”