Mangroves in Charkop’s sector 8, Kandivli (West), have been allegedly set on fire thrice in the last five days, according to local residents and environmentalists. On each occasion, locals alerted the fire brigade, which took around 30 to 45 minutes to douse the fire.
“The blaze was really big on Friday as it spread due to strong winds. It seems like some people, who come to drink there, are starting these fires that spread to the mangroves,” said an official from the Malad fire station.
On February 29, Hindustan Times had reported how illegal encroachments, reclamation and blazes were threatening the 138-acre patch of mangroves in sector 8, Kandivli (West), along the Manori Creek. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had also conducted an inspection of the site.
“On Friday, Saturday and Monday, a few youngsters were seen lighting a fire in the mangroves behind the residential buildings near the sector 8 road and also in the mangroves facing the building. The frequency of these fires has increased alarmingly,” claimed Mili Shetty, a resident of Sai Siddhi building, which faces the mangroves.
On Sunday, members of the residents’ association, Vikas Samiti, held a meeting to discuss the incidents of mangroves being set on fire. “We alerted everyone about the issue and asked people to report any such matter to the police immediately,” said Shetty, chief co-ordinator, Vikas Samiti.
Rishi Agarwal of the Mangrove Society of India said that Charkop’s sector 8 is a prime example of how the authorities are neglecting the protection of mangroves. “The blazes and encroachments seem to be well planned and the authorities need to clamp down on the culprits soon,” Agarwal said. He added that he was planning to write to the chief conservator of forest (mangroves), N Vasudevan, and the environment secretary, Valsa Nair Singh, about the issue.
When asked why the residents had not filed a police complaint till now, Shetty said that the police are helpful every time the locals inform them about a fire and they also help coordinate with the fire brigade. “The police have been to the spot several times and have assured us that they are looking into the matter,” said Shetty.
“Nobody has come forward to file any complaint as of now. From what we observed, the miscreants are burning garbage around the mangroves,” said Vasant Devarkar, senior inspector, Charkop police station.