The destruction of close to 200 mangrove trees and dumping of debris in a one-acre wetland area between Vashi bridge and Mankhurd bridge was reported on Wednesday.
This is the seventh such case of mangrove destruction and wetland reclamation from different parts of Mumbai in a span of three months.
The most recent incident came to light after members of Watchdog Foundation, a city-based non-governmental organisation, reported the matter to the city police, the civic body and the chief minister’s office on May 16.
“There is large scale land-grabbing happening in an area between Vashi bridge and Mankhurd bridge, where a large tract of 200 mangrove trees has been hacked. Despite informing the concerned authorities, no action has been taken and this may lead to irretrievable damage to the environment,” said Nicholas Almeida, trustee with Watchdog Foundation.
“Close to the remaining patch of 500 mangrove trees, a leveller is also being utilised to cut off sea-water supply to the trees, which will ultimately lead to the patch drying up,” added Almeida.
Officials from the Mankhurd police station said that they were aware of the dumping of debris at the location.
“We have received papers from three agencies that have taken permission from concerned authorities for the dumping of debris at the location. However, the permission does not include the felling of any mangrove trees,” said Prakash Gosawi, senior police inspector, Mankhurd police station.
“If there has been any destruction of mangroves in the area, the concerned authorities, such as the state mangrove cell or the revenue department should approach us and we will take requisite action,” he said.
A 2005 Bombay high court (HC) order had banned destruction of mangrove forests across the state, and construction within 50 metres of wetlands.
In 2014, another HC order had banned all reclamation and construction activity in wetlands.
Reports of mangrove destruction in the recent past in Mumbai:
* May 4 – Destruction of more than 2000 mangrove trees in a two-and-a-half acre wetland area at Dharma Nagar, Borivli (West)– Local police visited the spot and have begun investigations and the mangrove cell has submitted a panchnama to the revenue department.
* April 23 - Destruction of more than 100 mangrove trees at a five-acre patch in Sector 20, near Airoli Kalba complex at Navi Mumbai - Maharashtra state mangrove cell officials claimed the trees were hacked for construction of an electricity tower undertaken by the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB); the latter has denied the allegations.
Why you should care about mangroves"
* Mangroves act as a buffer zone between the land and the sea and protect the land from erosion, cyclones and ecological disasters.
* They also offer a breeding-ground for a variety of marine animals, such as invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds and serve as a good source of timber, fuel and fodder. Besides being regular tourist haunts, mangroves also absorb impurities, such as harmful heavy metals and pollutants in the air.