The state mangrove cell has said the local municipal corporation has destroyed mangroves and illegally reclaimed 10 hectares (24.7 acre) of wetlands at Bhayander (East).
According to the observation made by the cell, the site adjacent to Vasai Creek in possession of the Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC) was filled with construction debris and development work was done to construct sports grounds, play grounds, a jetty and a number of other structures over the past nine years.
“After carrying out field visits to the site, we found that thick patches of mangroves destroyed and constructions carried out within 50m of mangroves, which is a clear violation of wetland rules that led to a loss of environment,” said a senior official from the state mangrove cell. “We have filed a report and submitted it to the district collectorate to take action.”
Noting the public interest litigation (PIL) 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 another PIL filed by NGO Vanashakti in 2013 highlighting protection of wetlands, the high court banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands in 2014.
The district collectorate had handed over the 10-hectare land to the MBMC in 2007 to protect the area from encroachments. In 2013, NGO Vanashakti and Bhayander resident Dhiraj Parab had filed a petition in the Bombay high court against the state government and the MBMC for the alleged destruction of mangroves and work was carried out to construct a chowpatty at Jesal Park, a boat jetty, Chacha Nehru Bal Udyan park, protecting a wall near the creek shore and a number of sports grounds in violation of previous Bombay high court rules.
On June 8 this year, the sub-divisional officer (SDO) under the Thane district collectorate had issued a notice to MBMC to restore the wetlands to its original status. “Our officers carried out inspection of the land and it was found that the municipal corporation had filled rabid, stones near the jetty, carried out construction near the creek shore at Jesal Park Chowpatty that has caused damage to mangroves,” read the notice adding, “Unauthorised construction needs to be removed to protect the environment and so that mangroves can be naturally restored at that place.”
A month later on July 8, 2016, the MBMC filed an affidavit against the notice by SDO in the Bombay HC stating that no construction was carried out on the land to affect the environment and the construction of the chowpatty was done as per area reserved under the Development Plan (DP) of the Mira-Bhayander civic body sanctioned and implemented in 1997 and 2000.
“Development of playground and chowpatty is necessary to ensure public participation and to protect the land from illegal encroachment and reclamation,” read the affidavit. “Corporation has also planted mangroves at Jesal Park area to protect the environment.”
The matter will be heard in the Bombay high court on August 16.
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. Manmade lakes, saltpans, reservoirs, abandoned quarries and dams are also considered wetlands.
Why you should care about mangroves?
Wetlands stabilise the coastline, control erosion and provide a habitat for plant and animal species, prevent floods and filter groundwater
The regulate climate change by storing carbon
They contribute to the country’s economy by providing fishery resources, timber, wildlife resources, medicines and agricultural products