Four days after the forest department filed a preliminary offence report (POR) against the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for damaging mangroves inside the Kanjurmarg dumping ground, forest officials said they will test water and soil samples from the mangroves to find out whether toxic waste had leaked from the dumping site.
The POR was filed after officials from the Mumbai territorial division of the forest department visited the site to inspect the condition of the mangroves. Under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, the forest department has the authority to file an offence report if protected forests such as mangroves are found to be damaged.
The POR had stated that 75% of mangroves in plot A of the mangrove area and around 60-70 mangrove trees in plot-B had been damaged because of blocking of inter-tidal activity. Of the 141.77 hectares at the landfill site, 23.36 hectares of land is filled with mangroves.
As part of the investigation, the forest department has asked the BMC to submit all documents related to mangroves at the landfill site, construction of culverts, old roads and land records.
Senior forest officials who had visited the site had observed that the aerial roots of mangroves near plot B were covered with debris. “The aerial roots of the mangroves were covered with debris and hence the trees must have choked. The debris might have been pushed off on the roots while the internal road was being built,” said a senior forest department official, on the condition of anonymity.
“Through testing of water samples, we also want to check if the leachate from landfill has caused siltation or harmed the mangroves,” he added.
The BMC, though, maintains that its activities at the landfill site have not damaged the mangroves. “We will study the matter thoroughly and only then arrive at a conclusion regarding the forest department’s allegations. We are willing to work with the forest department to improve the condition of the mangroves,” said Shekhar Chitale, chief engineer, solid waste management department, BMC.