Mumbai: 4,500 mangrove trees destroyed in 2 months, no FIRs filed

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jul 15, 2015 20:59 IST

Close to 4,500 mangrove trees have been hacked between April and May in Borivli and Dahisar. However, no FIRs have been registered, environmental activists said.

The New Link Residents’ Forum highlighted four cases - two each in Dahisar (East) and Borivli - of mangrove destruction, dumping of debris and reclamation of wetlands in these two months.

“There seems to be a flaw in the administrative procedures with regards to environmental violations, which delays the FIRs. Perpetrators use this loophole to their advantage and violations continue,” said Harish Pandey, a resident and secretary, New Link Road Residents’ Forum.

Pandey added that different departments submit paperwork to each other but no conclusive action has been taken as ‘each department keeps passing the buck’.

Officials from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s R-north ward issued notices under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning (MRTP) in both cases from Dahisar (East) on April 18. Santosh Kumar Donde, ward officer, said, “After issuing the notices, the police were supposed to call us for joint inspection at both sites at Dahisar (East). Nothing has happened so far.”

According to the local police, instructions to file an FIR can only be initiated when the revenue department directs them to do so. “About a-month-and-a-half ago, we sent a letter asking them (revenue department) for further action. When we received no response, we sent a reminder on July 5 but there has been no reply,” said Suresh Sahani, police inspector.

A senior official from the revenue department, Borivli taluka told HT that the circle officer of Dahisar (East) has recently been instructed to follow up with the local police to file an FIR.

With regards to the cases in Borivli, the official said, “Investigations about the ownership of the land are being investigated and the samples of the 2,000 trees destroyed in May have been sent to Institute of Wood and Science Technology (IWST) in Bangalore for identification.”

Ashok Sawant, police inspector, MHB police station, Borivli, said, “The FIRs have not been filed in the two cases in Borivli as it is not clear whether the trees hacked were mangrove trees or not.”

Recent cases
May 4: HT reported the destruction of more than 2,000 mangroves across a two-and-a-half acre wetland area at Dharma Nagar, Borivli (West). The local police begun investigations and the mangrove cell submitted a panchnama to the revenue department. The latter has send samples of the trees to Institute of Wood and Science Technology, Bangalore. No FIR has been filed yet

April 20: Trees on a six-acre area of mangroves near Dharma Nagar, Borivli (West), were hacked, HT reported. Residents filed a complaint with the revenue department and local police. No FIR filed yet

April 15: HT reported two cases of alleged reclamation of wetlands and destruction of mangroves at two different sites in Dahisar (East) falling under CRZ. The BMC has issued notices under the MRTP in both cases but no FIR has been filed

HC ban on reclamation of wetlands
Acting on a PIL by the NGO, Bombay Environment Action Group (BEAG), the Bombay high court (HC) in 2005 ruled:

* Complaints from citizens with regards to mangrove destruction will be entertained

* All construction and garbage dumping along mangroves must be stopped immediately

* All construction within 50m of mangroves will be banned

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

Why you should care
* Mangroves act as a buffer between land and sea. They protect land from eroding and protect shorelines against cyclones and ecological disasters

* They is also a breeding ground for a variety of marine animals such as invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds

* Apart from being a source for recreation and tourism, mangroves also absorb impurities such as harmful heavy metals and pollutants.

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