Missing: 2,000 mangrove trees at a Madh Island plot hacked, burnt

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Sep 03, 2015 21:38 IST
In just a year, 2,000 mangrove trees at a Madh Island plot, in an area protected under the CRZ, have been hacked and burnt. (Vidya Subramaniam/HT photo)

In just a year, 2,000 mangrove trees at a Madh Island plot, in an area protected under the Coastal Regulation Zone, have been hacked and burnt.

That the trees had gone missing came to light after a local resident pointed out the encroachment. NGO Watchdog Foundation then filed a complaint with the state mangrove cell and sent them satellite images of the plot over a 10-year period.

Mangrove trees on a four-acre plot were burnt at Master Wadi in Shantinagar, between Erangal village and Madh Island, according to Madh Island resident Valerian Miranda.

“Unidentified people have been encroaching upon large tracts of mangroves, but slowly. Earlier, debris was dumped here, but over the past few months, this thick mangrove cover has completely disappeared,” Miranda said.

HT visited the spot, around 2km from the Madh jetty, to find partially burnt and hacked mangrove trees at one end and debris and garbage dumped on the other. However, a plot right next to this one had thick mangrove cover.

Officials from the state mangrove cell also visited the location on Tuesday and drafted a panchnama. “There has been dumping of debris. We will book an offence and action will be taken only after rectifying through satellite imagery whether the plot is under notified forestland,” said N Vasudevan, the chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.

Members of the Watchdog Foundation wrote to the chief conservator of forests, state mangrove cell and the environment department of the civic body. “Apart from visiting the location, we got satellite images of the plot over a span of 10 years. We found the area had a thick mangrove cover till 2013, just like another plot next to it. But since last year, the plot has been barren,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog foundation.

Another trustee from the NGO, Nicholas Almedia, had in 2008, got details through an RTI submitted to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF & CC).

“MoEF & CC had declared the entire area, from Manori to Vasai as a national mangrove site. There are 38 such sites in the country, and this area, where the trees have been hacked, falls under this zone,” said Almedia.

The destruction of mangrove forests across the state and construction within 50m of mangrove areas was banned by the high court in 2005, after a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by the NGO Bombay Environment Action Group.

In 2014, after another PIL was filed by NGO Vanashakti on protection of wetlands, the HC banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands.

* 4,500 mangrove trees destroyed in April, May; no FIRs filed
Nearly 4,500 mangrove trees were hacked this year in Borivli and Dahisar, but residents said no FIRs have been filed. The New Link Residents’ Forum highlighted four cases of mangrove destruction, dumping debris and reclamation of wetlands in April and May

On May 4 , HT reported about the destruction of more than 2,000 mangrove trees in a two-and-a-half acre wetland at Dharma Nagar, Borivli (West). Local police visited the spot and started investigations. No FIR filed yet

On April 20, mangrove trees on a six-acre plot near Dharma Nagar, Borivli (West), were hacked. Residents filed a complaint with the revenue department and local police and HT highlighted the case. No FIR filed yet

Why you should care
* Mangroves act as a buffer zone between land and sea, protecting the land from erosion

* Mangroves absorb the impact of cyclones

* They are a breeding ground for a variety of marine animals

* Mangroves also absorb impurities in the air, such as harmful heavy metals and pollutants.

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