More than 300 fully grown mangrove trees were destroyed at a one-and-a-half-acre wetland at Kasheli Creek along the Thane-Bhiwandi road over the past one week.
Residents of the area, belonging to the local fishing community, alleged the land had been reclaimed for illegal housing development. A complaint was filed by local NGO Sree Ekvir Aai Pratishthan on Wednesday with the collector’s office, Thane and the state mangrove cell.
This is the third reported case of mangrove destruction from areas around Kasheli creek over the past year.
HT had reported first in April last year about a similar violation where close to 100 trees were destroyed owing to debris dumping on the wetlands. In January this year, construction debris was dumped on a two-acre mangrove patch at the creek, destroying close to 600 trees. In both cases, the violations were stopped and debris removed after the Thane collector’s intervention.
“Local goons from Kasheli village under the directives from the gram panchayat (local self governing body) in connivance with politicians first removed a thick patch of mangrove cover by hacking the trees, then began dumping debris,” said Nandkumar Pawar, director, NGO Sree Ekvir Aai Pratishthan. “It is a gross violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rule and wetlands rule. However, the state mangrove cell or the local collector have not responded to the complaint.”
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.
In 2014, after NGO Vanashakti filed another PIL on the protection of wetlands, the high court banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands.
Officials from the state mangrove cell said they had received the complaint, but the jurisdiction to take action in the matter falls under the ambit of the local collector.
“We will draft a punchnama and send it to the collector’s office if a violation is observed,” said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.
The Thane collector told HT they had taken cognisance of the complaint. “I have directed our circle officers to visit the site, investigate the matter and submit a report. We will take strict action if violations are observed,” said Ashwini Joshi, collector, Thane.