Probe confirms Kapil Sharma destroyed Versova mangrove
Owners of 50-60 homes in Versova have extended their properties into 10 metres of protected wetlands over the past three years and destroyed mangrove, said officials from the state mangrove cell who visited the site on Monday.mumbai Updated: Sep 12, 2016 20:16 IST
Owners of 50-60 homes —including actor-comedian Kapil Sharma — in Versova have extended their properties into 10 metres of protected wetlands over the past three years and destroyed mangroves, said officials of the state mangrove cell who visited the site on Monday. The inspection was done after environmental activists complained that Sharma and his neighbours had encroached upon the mangroves in their backyard.
Officials from the mangrove cell of the forest department said debris has been dumped into the mangrove forest near Jankidevi Public School Road, SV Patel Nagar. “There is a massive violation at the site. Mangroves have been destroyed through the dumping of debris,” said Makarand Ghotge, assistant conservator of forest, state mangrove cell. “We will file a report with the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) as the land belongs to them and the revenue department that there has been a violation of the Environment Protection Act, 1972. Following this, they will file an FIR against violators.”
Ghotge said the encroachments have taken place along a 400m stretch. “While some houses have made extensions to existing properties, others have either dumped garbage or treated the area as their backyard by planting trees and installing benches,” he said. He added that the area was surveyed with the help of pre-existing satellite maps that showed that mangroves existed in the area up till 2013.
Following a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the 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 NGO Vanashakti filed another PIL, the high court banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands in 2014.
Environmentalists welcomed the probe carried out by the state mangrove cell. “Earlier the state mangrove cell had given the owners a clean chit. However, after a follow-up complaint was filed by us on Sunday, the reinvestigation identified the violation. It is a victory for environmentalists,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation that had filed complaints against Sharma and other residents regarding the alleged destruction of mangroves.