Until allegations of 100 mangroves being felled at a construction site near Airoli are investigated, the Maharashtra State Mangrove Cell will not be allowing further hacking of trees or construction work at the site. On Friday, officials of the mangrove cell had alleged that the Maharashtra State Electricity Transmission Company Limited (MSETCL) approved the felling of the trees at a construction site for electricity transmission work, but the latter denied it.
“If the implementing agency (MSETCL) is denying responsibility for the duly approved project by the central government, then we are going to stop any kind of felling of mangrove trees or work at the site until a clear work schedule is provided to us,”said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests (mangrove cell) on Monday.
Officials also said that work started on Monday morning. “Along with other officers, I visited the spot in the morning to find four labourers working at the site,” said Seema Adgaonkar, range forest officer, mangrove cell.
According to Vasudevan, the MSETCL planned to set up an electricity transmission tower at the site, as part of a larger project to be spread across 117 hectares of forest land, including mangrove trees between Boisar and Kharghar. The approval for the project was given in 2013.
But officials from the MSETCL said that work in the area is taking place through the corridor of another major electricity distribution company. Avinash Mahadev Borkar, additional executive engineer, MSETCL, said, “We have begun the project work in different parts of the city, however, no work has been initiated nor has there been any destruction of mangroves at the site.”
Vasudevan added that the possibility of a third party being involved in the felling of mangroves would be investigated.
Reports of mangrove destruction in the recent past in Mumbai:
April 27: Destruction of several mangrove trees and reclamation of close to five-acres was reported from a site close to Kasheli creek at Thane-Bhiwandi road. Local NGO has filed a complaint with mangrove cell. They are yet to file a complaint with revenue officials
April 23: Destruction of more than 100 mangrove trees in a five-acre area in Sector 20, near Airoli in Navi Mumbai. Maharashtra state mangrove cell officials claimed the trees were hacked for construction of an electricity tower undertaken by the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB), the latter has denied the allegations
April 20: Trees on a six-acre area of mangroves near Dharma Nagar, Borivli (West), were hacked. Local residents filed a complaint with the revenue department and local police, no action taken yet
April 15: Two cases of alleged reclamation of wetland and destruction of mangroves at two different sites in Dahisar (East), near Saraswati Apartments and near Vithal Rakhumai Mandir east falling under Coastal Regulation Zone. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), has issued notices under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning (MRTP) in both cases
March 19: Constructions carried out by a private builder led to the destruction of a 25-acre stretch of mangroves at Dharma Nagar, Borivli (East). An FIR has been filed against the private builder after officials from the revenue, forest and police department inspected the area.