Residents of the New Link Road Residents Forum who have been keeping vigil on the Dahisar mangroves from their balconies and terraces were thrilled with the Supreme Court order on Monday.
The SC directed the Kandivli-based builder, Ravi Shah, who had destroyed mangroves in the area, to undo the damage.
“This judgment should be a precedent for builders with intentions of future development,” said Harish Pandey, member of the New Link Road Residents’ Forum. “It also paves the way for other citizens’ group to come together and work wonders.”
Residing about 150m away from the spot, Pandey added destruction of the mangroves would affect them directly, in case of natural calamities such as floods or tsunami.
The apex court’s judgment is based on the report filed in December by Principal Judge of the sessions court, ML Tahilyani, confirming several environmental violations by the builder. In his report, judge Tahilyani said the height and width of the bund had been increased leading to mangrove deaths. New bunds had been created, blocking seawater intrusion and also recorded that huge amounts of construction debris had been dumped on the mangroves.
Ahmad Abdi, the lawyer representing the residents’ forum, said that if the builder failed to restore the mangrove stretch within 60 days then the collector can take over the restoration of the land and recover the cost as land revenue from the builder.
Environmental activist Rishi Aggarwal said the order should be implemented within the timeframe set by the court. “Though a welcome judgment, the key will be the execution of the order,” he said.
Last April, Shah began repairs of a bund (embankment), which had been defunct since 1993, following a SC ruling in his favour. The ruling had categorically directed the petitioner not to destroy the mangroves. The builder cut off the flow of seawater into the mangrove patch. The collector issued a stop work order, which was challenged by the builder in a contempt plea in SC.
In August, the Bombay Environment Action Group filed a petition in the SC after the builder initiated contempt proceedings against the collector. The New Link Road Residents’ Forum filed an intervention application.
“It is a significant order; given that it was a question of over 400 acres. Since mangroves are sturdy, they have survived the test for six months. But they would soon start dying. But citizens must be allowed to walk around that area so as to monitor it,” said Stalin D, project director, Vanashakti, an environment non-government organisation.