Environmentalists are alarmed that it took the state government a month to stop the destruction of a mangrove patch at Dahisar.
The state environment ministry, officials from the collector’s office and Revenue Department could do little as truckloads of construction debris were dumped onto the mangroves since April 14.
Mangroves are important for a city like Mumbai as they protect the shoreline from erosion, tsunami, storms and floods. They also help maintain water quality and support a wide variety of animals and birds.
'It’s a ridiculous situation. One government department is unaware of what the other is doing,' said environmentalist Rishi Agarwal. Despite written orders from Environment Secretary Valsa Nair Singh, Collector Vishwas Patil did not take action for more than two weeks.
As complaints of mangrove destruction poured in from across the city, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority proposed a mangrove park worth Rs 100 crore. 'It was like offering cake to a bread-hungry country,' said Agarwal. Activists said the dumping could have been stopped immediately because the construction company was violating a Supreme Court order.
“The order allowed the construction of an embankment on the condition that no mangroves were damaged,' said Matthew Samuels, president of the New Link Road Resident Forum, an environmental body campaigning to protect the stretch.
This is not a one-off case. Last year, a local non-governmental organisation in Andheri filmed trucks dumping debris on mangroves at Millat Nagar as police officials looked on. Subsequently, a police complaint was filed but no action was taken.
According to a recent Right To Information response, there are 23 police complaints of mangrove destruction pending with the police. In 22 of these cases, the police have not even identified the offenders.