Mumbai: A day after HT reported that city based NGOs alleged that mangrove trees at Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai were dying because of sea water being blocked by the construction of a retaining wall by the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA), fresh debris was spotted at the wetland patch by NGO Watchdog foundation at the site adjoining Mithi River on Thursday.
The group filed a complaint with the state mangrove cell and district collector to take action at the site near Bharat Nagar, BKC, Bandra East.
“If it was not enough that the mangroves were drying up at the site, now more than three truckloads of debris were dumped on Thursday,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation. “This is a clear violation of the Environment Protection Act, 1972 and an evidence of MMRDA’s intention to clear all mangroves for further constructions.”
Pimenta added that the violation took place despite the presence of security guards deployed by MMRDA at the site. “The state machinery needs to remove the debris at the earliest and we will be keeping a check on further violations at the site,” he said.
The destruction of mangrove forests across the state and constructions within 50m of mangrove areas was banned by the Bombay high court in 2005, after a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by 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.
MMRDA officials said they did not know about the alleged violation. “We will instruct the concerned security department to check whether there has been any violation and the debris will be removed,” said DT Thube, chief engineer, engineering division, MMRDA.
Meanwhile, on receiving the complaint, the district collectorate and the state mangrove cell swung into action. “The sub-divisional officer has been instructed to form a team and carry out an inspection at the site. We have also informed the state mangrove cell to join us for the joint inspection. If there is violation, notices will be served to the concerned authorities,” said Deependra Singh Kushwa, collector, Mumbai suburban.
“Constructions along the banks of Mithi River by MMRDA are all violations of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms. Mangrove areas have been dumped down and the construction is within the flood line of Mithi. By leveling the area and removing mangroves, it will become a hot bed for real estate projects,” said Stalin Dayanand, project director, NGO Vanashakti.
Bombay HC to hear matter next week
HT had reported on Thursday that the retaining wall built along the Mithi River at BKC by MMRDA is killing mangrove trees, according to environmentalists.
In 2013, Janak Dafatri, from Jalbiradri, along with NGO Vanashakti, had filed an application at the National Green Tribunal, western bench in Pune against the state machinery as their construction work was hampering the mangroves.
After prolonged hearings, the principal bench of the National Green Tribunal, Delhi in May 2016, slapped a fine of Rs25 lakh on MMRDA as environmental compensation.
MMRDA filed a writ petition challenging the Tribunal order in the Bombay high court. The matter is up for hearing on September 27.
What are wetlands?
A wetland – natural and man-made – is a piece of land inundated by water, either seasonally or perennially. In coastal cities such as Mumbai, they are the vital coastal ecosystem that harbour marine life, migratory birds and act as natural buffers against floods and tsunamis during extreme weather events.