GT Chowhan, deputy conservator of forests, Thane division, talks to HT.
Under your jurisdiction in Mumbai and Thane, there have been repeated complaints of mangrove destruction, how do you view the situation?
Though it’s true that several cases have come up, not all complaints and issues are related to mangroves that fall under forest land. Mangroves situated on revenue department land and private land is under more threat.
Hardly anyone has been prosecuted for destroying mangroves. Does that not reflect the inability to check destruction?
As per my knowledge, I don’t think any person has been put behind bars or has been penalised under section 34(h) of Indian Forest Act, 1927, that pertains to destruction of mangroves, or for violating the Bombay high court’s order that bans dumping of solid waste on mangroves.
So is it a problem of lack of legal provisions or lack of patrolling from the forest department?
Well, there is certainly an absence of rigorous punishment under the Indian Forest Act, 1927. If the mangroves were reserved forests and not protected forests, the punishment would have been much harsher.
What are the main challenges in protecting mangroves with a small staff?
It is difficult to identify people who dump construction debris or who cut off mangroves. That is a major sticky issue. The methods they use are similar across the city. Debris are dumped on small quantities at the start and soon, entire areas are covered under debris. In several cases, our patrol officers have been attacked while chasing these truck drivers.