Navi Mumbai mayor in soup for attending celebration inside ‘destroyed’ mangroves | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Navi Mumbai mayor in soup for attending celebration inside ‘destroyed’ mangroves

Speaking to HT, Sonawane confirmed that he visited the spot on Friday

mumbai Updated: Feb 25, 2017 01:31 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Navi Mumbai Mayor Sudhakar Sonawane’s car parked near the encroached land, where people constructed a temporary structure to celebrate Mahashivratri on Friday.
Navi Mumbai Mayor Sudhakar Sonawane’s car parked near the encroached land, where people constructed a temporary structure to celebrate Mahashivratri on Friday. (HT PHOTO)

Despite a complaint registered by an NGO and a report by the Hindustan Times about large tracts of mangroves being allegedly destroyed along the Palm Beach Road in Navi Mumbai, almost 50 people, including the Navi Mumbai mayor, were spotted celebrating Mahashivratri at the cleared spot inside the mangroves on Friday in a violation of Bombay high court (HC) rules.

A private vehicle (MH 43 G 1000) with a red beacon, belonging to the Navi Mumbai Mayor Sudhakar Sonawane, was seen parked at the encroached land, where large banners were put up, showed photographs sent to the mangrove cell. Pictures also showed garbage strewn all over the place. “We have sent pictures to Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW), an NGO, showing the blatant disregard for our mangrove cover irrespective of having good intentions for celebrating a festival. The mangrove cell needs to act on this fast,” said a resident from Palm Beach Road.

The state mangrove cell had earlier told HT that a private electricity distributor was permitted to set up high tension wires at the site and that mangroves had to be pruned. “Despite alerting the mangrove cell on time, they could not stop such activity which is prohibited both by the HC and is a violation of the Environment Protection Act, 1986,” said Pawan Sharma, president, RAWW. “We have nothing against religious sentiments but no religion supports destruction of environment and such activities are not above the law. The mangrove cell must explain their actions to public.”

Speaking to HT, Sonawane confirmed that he visited the spot on Friday. “There is a road that passes through the mangrove cover leading up to Bamandev temple (a Shiva temple) where Koli community celebrates Mahashivratri. No mangroves were destroyed at the spot. The tents are temporary and will be removed. The forest department is aware that we celebrate the occasion every year,” he said.

The structure could be seen in the picture submitted with the original complaint. (HT FILE)

Local residents, reached out to RAWW that had filed the original complaint and submitted pictures of the encroachment. “Our team has received pictures of a private vehicle with a red beacon at the site and we will track it down and initiate action against violators,” said Makarand Ghodke, assistant conservator of forest, Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Unit. “When we had visited the site earlier, we did not find any encroachment. Now, a fresh investigation in the matter will be lodged from Saturday.”

The people celebrating Mahashivratri inside the mangroves spread garbage all over the place, dirty it. (HT PHOTO)

According to state mangrove cell, 1,471 hectare of mangroves falls under government-owned land in Navi Mumbai, which are identified as protected forest areas. Noting the PIL filed by Bombay Environment Action Group — an NGO in Mumbai — in 2005, the HC had banned the destruction of state-wide mangroves and construction within 50m of them. After Vanashakti filed another PIL, the HC banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands in 2014.

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