The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has informed the Bombay high court that encroachment and dumping of debris on open land is a major issue in the city.
The state agency, in an affidavit filed last week, in response to a public interest litigation by activist Jagdish Gandhi, said that the claim about destruction of mangroves owing to dumping is based on erroneous media reports.
Gandhi had moved court seeking protection and restoration of mangroves, making the Mithi river free of encroachment, and restoration of water bodies in the state.
Gandhi had argued that despite court directions, mangroves in the Mahul Wadala sector, under the MMRDA, are being destroyed.
Gandhi had shown photographs supporting his claim and said that the fencing done by the authorities in the area was destroying the mangroves.
The MMRDA, however, said the fencing was necessary to prevent encroachment and dumping of debris and had been done with sheets, not wires.
It also claimed that no damage had been caused to the mangroves.
The court had earlier directed all authorities concerned with development activities to scrupulously ensure that no permission is granted for construction on mangrove land. It said that the authorities would have to seek court permission to proceed with any projects that affected mangroves.
“There is no doubt that there is an urgent need to protect the fast-depleting mangrove cover,” the court observed, adding that the destruction was at such a rate that there were hardly any mangroves left.
Gandhi had also contended that the MMRDA should construct walls on the northern and southern part of Mithi river so that encroachers cannot access the mangroves.
He submitted that the current wall is between the river and the mangroves, not between the mangroves and the encroachers.
The court also gave the state a month’s time to file an affidavit on the number of water bodies, tanks and ponds. The state had been asked to do so in March, but has not filed the affidavit yet.