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Mumbai: Civic body dumping debris on mangroves?

mumbai Updated: Dec 18, 2014 20:19 IST
Snehal Rebello
Snehal Rebello
Hindustan Times

In violation of the Bombay high court’s (HC) interim order against reclamation or construction on wetlands earlier this year, the Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC) has allegedly been dumping debris on mangroves to construct a sewage treatment plant (STP) at Saraswat Nagar, Bhayander (East).

On Wednesday, National Environment Watch ( NEW) — an umbrella organisation of various local environment groups across the city — registered a complaint at the Navghar police station against mangrove destruction in the Coastal Regulation Zone I.

The complaint letter said, “Complaints in this regard have been sent earlier, but no action seems to have been initiated by your official, despite a police chowky right next to the site.”

Locals allege the STP is being built on the mangroves, with a boundary wall being constructed 10 metres away from them.

A 2005 HC order banned destruction of mangrove forests across the state, and construction within 50 metres of them, following a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a non-government organisation Bombay Environment Action Group. In a separate PIL filed by NGO Vanashakti on the protection of wetlands, the HC, early this year, banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands.

According to locals, repeated complaints to various authorities have fallen on deaf years. “Five days ago, the private contractor started filling the mangroves with debris again. I even complained to the police but no action has been taken,” said Vijay Pawar.

The site was also part of a report submitted by the chief conservator of forests (mangroves cell), at the direction of the HC, which confirmed large-scale destruction of wetlands and mangroves. “We have received the application on the destruction. After studying its contents, we will form a team and look into the violations,” said Shirish Chaudhari, subinspector, Navghar police station.

MBMC municipal commissioner Subash Lakhe said, “I will send my executive engineer to the site tomorrow to ascertain the facts and we will stop the work if any illegality is taking place.”

Work on the sewage treatment plant started about four years ago. “When they started destroying mangroves, information under the Right to Information Act revealed that no environmental clearance was granted to construct a sewage treatment plant in the mangrove area. Work had then stopped,” said Pawar.

A year ago, work restarted and came to a halt, after complaints of debris dumping, but only for three months. Locals alleged that mangroves would be filled up at night, and that till date about 2,000-3,000 trucks of debris may have been used to fill the wetland.

“We have heard of private developers destroying mangroves. But here is a corporation that has gone ahead with building a public utility without an environment clearance,” said Harish Pandey of NEW.