Concerned about the destruction of mangroves, lakes and wetlands in Navi Mumbai, a bunch of white-collar executives have been taking time out from their day jobs to spread awareness about the protection, preservation and conservation of the environment.
In 2010, the Navi Mumbai Environment Preservation Society (NMEPS) was formed by seven senior executives to protest against the filling of a lake in the satellite city by the civic body.
“We are a group of very diverse professionals who had very little in common except for the zeal to protect the environment around us. In fact, we hardly knew each other to begin with, but our like-minded pursuit brought us together,” said Sandeep Bangia, a member of NMEPS.
Over the past five years, the group has been working with various government authorities to preserve water bodies, lakes and mangroves, and prevent the dumping of debris in Navi Mumbai. In addition, they organise nature trails, mangrove walks, essay competitions, slogan-writing contests, seminars and drawing competitions for children, with the preservation of the environment as a theme.
“The best way to preserve the environment is to make the young ones more aware and vigilant as textbooks don’t help,” said Anupam Verma, another member.
In 2013, the group filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay high court (HC) over the illegal dumping of debris and destruction of mangroves along Palm Beach Road and other parts of the city.
“We would ideally like to resolve local issues with the authorities by meeting or writing to them. However, when multiple meetings, letters and even ‘shramdaan’ by our volunteers failed to evoke a response, we knocked on the doors of the high court,” said Vinod Punshi, retired executive and president of NMEPS.
Following the PIL, the HC in April 2014 directed the forest department, city police and Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) to monitor the eco-sensitive wetlands and take action against those engaged in the illegal dumping of debris in the mangroves.
“A positive outcome of the PIL is that now the authorities are slightly more sensitive and conscious towards environmental issues and co-operate with us when we raise a matter,” said Punshi.
N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forest at the state mangrove cell, said, “We have been working with NMEPS on conserving mangroves and educating children about the importance of eco-sensitive areas in the city.”