To save mangroves on private land, Mumbai suburban collector requests separate cell | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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To save mangroves on private land, Mumbai suburban collector requests separate cell

Almost four cases of debris dumping and hacking of trees from mangrove patches in the western suburbs are being recorded every month

mumbai Updated: Oct 17, 2017 20:27 IST
Badri Chatterjee
The suburban collector’s office submitted a proposal to the revenue and forest departments last week, requesting formation of a mangrove cell to track, detect and restrict cases on private mangrove patches from Bandra to Dahisar.
The suburban collector’s office submitted a proposal to the revenue and forest departments last week, requesting formation of a mangrove cell to track, detect and restrict cases on private mangrove patches from Bandra to Dahisar. (HT file photo )

As unabated destruction of mangroves continues in private areas across Mumbai, with no arrests or convictions in the past five years, the district administration has upped its efforts to try and bring down the number of such cases. In the past 10 months, 82 cases of mangrove destruction on private properties have been reported.

The suburban collector’s office submitted a proposal to the state government (state revenue and forest department) last week, requesting formation of a mangrove cell to track, detect and restrict cases on private mangrove patches from Bandra to Dahisar.

While the forest department has a separate cell to track such violations, mangroves in suburban areas that fall under the collector will be better protected through this cell, said officials.

“Almost four cases of debris dumping and hacking of trees from mangrove patches in the western suburbs are being recorded every month. Owing to manpower crunch and a dedicated team from the forest department, a few of our cases are either pending or follow-up action is missing,” said Nitin Mahajan, additional collector, Mumbai suburban. “Hence, we have asked for a dedicated department that will not only track cases faster, but increase deterrence as well.”

Officials from state revenue department said the proposal has been forwarded to the forest department. “We are yet to take a call, as we are yet to see the proposal. The department will assess the requirement for such a cell along with the forest department,” said B Bansode, officer, state revenue and forest department.

Officials from the state mangrove cell, formed in 2012 under the forest department, said the proposal was unnecessary.

“A cell is a technical body and our function is not confined to tracking mangrove destruction in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), but extends across the 720 km coastline of Maharashtra. We also run programmes for mangrove biodiversity conservation,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell. “The collector’s office needs manpower track cases. There is no need for a ‘mangrove cell’.”

He added that the central government needs to transfer the power of taking action regarding mangrove destruction cases on private land to the forest department under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. “This will help solve the overall issue for every state,” he said.

Did you know?

The destruction of mangrove forests across the state and construction within 50m of mangrove areas was banned by the Bombay high court in 2005, after a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by the NGO Bombay Environment Action Group. Notified areas under the coastal regulation zone (CRZ-I) are not only protected under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 but also the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Since 2012, there have been 327 complaints of mangrove destruction recorded by the suburban collector’s office. Of these, 153 were identified as invalid and first information reports (FIRs) were filed in the remaining 137 cases. While investigation is underway in 23 cases. However, not a single arrest or conviction has taken place in any of these cases.

What are mangroves?

Mangroves, a group of salt-tolerant plants, trees, shrubs or ground fern of tropical and subtropical intertidal regions of the world, are classified as forests in India and have ecological and commercial value. Mumbai has 5,800 hectares (ha) of mangrove cover – 4,000 ha on government-owned land and 1,800 ha in private areas -- covering nearly 10% of its area.