More than 100 mangrove trees have been destroyed in a five-acre area in Sector 20, near Airoli Kalba complex at Navi Mumbai. Environment activists alleged the local fishing community is responsible for the hacking of the trees to convert the area into a pond for fishing purposes.
Nandkumar Pawar, from the Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishthan, a not-for-profit, came across the chopped trees when he visited the site to look for tree plantations. “This is a matter of land grabbing where fully grown and healthy mangrove trees have been hacked nearly a month ago,” he said.
“After seeing the area, which is hardly a kilometre away from the mangrove cell office, many local villages are trying to make their own pond by destroying these trees. They should realise that the destruction of mangroves is banned and the area falls under public property,” Pawar said.
N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests mangrove cell, Mumbai said, “We are aware there are people in this particular area doing traditional crab harvesting without destroying mangroves, however, we will be taking strict action against those destroying the trees.”
Vasudevan said a team had been sent to the spot near Sector 20 at Navi Mumbai and the matter is being investigated.
A 2005 high court order banned the destruction of mangrove forests across the state, following a public interest litigation (PIL) by the non-government organisation Bombay Environment Action Group. In 2014, a separate PIL filed by NGO Vanashakti on the protection of wetlands, the high court banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands.
Environmentalists were of the opinion that 80 or more such ponds had recently come up in less than a 6-km range in the area where large tracts of mangroves are being destroyed. “The entire belt in Navi Mumbai is being perforated and damaged by influential locals to make private aqua-culture ponds,” said Stalin D from NGO Vanashakti.