Three fires in 24 hours destroy Navi Mumbai green zones
With three fire incidents reported in the city’s green spaces within 24 hours, activists have again sounded the alarm bell.
Two fires were reported at Kharghar hills and Pandavkada on Thursday afternoon, destroying many full-grown trees. On Wednesday night, mangroves at Ulwe, opposite Sector 15 in Belapur, were set on fire.
Shubhangi Tirodkar, who lives at Sector 15 in Belapur, saw the flames in the mangrove from Belapur and complained. “The incident happened late at night and the fire raged for an hour. I complained on the forest helpline 1926 after which it was doused. Today, I can see some machines making rounds in the same area,” said Tirodkar.
She added that many fires were reported in 2018 and 2019 at the same place. “The forest officials do not have a satisfactory answer and have not done anything to curb it,” said Tirodkar.
On February 23, a fire at Kharghar hills destroyed more than 100 big and small trees, including saplings.
Kharghar hills is surrounded by Sectors 35, 5 and 36. Residents’ groups and environmentalists keep a close eye on every activity and alert officials in case of blaze or any other incident.
Amarpal Singh, 43, a Sector 35 resident, said, “We could see fire and smoke at Kharghar hill on Thursday. It seemed two separate fires were set deliberately, one from Pandavkada side and other from Sector 35 side.”
“Thursday’s fire destroyed many saplings planted recently. More than 90 small trees were destroyed,” said Singh.
Environmentalists said this is a deliberate attempt to destroy green spaces. “It is disheartening to see our efforts go waste. Senior citizens, children and nature lovers walk up the hill to water saplings. In the past one week, we have planted more than 100 saplings,” said Dharmendra Kar, 45, an environmentalist.
Activists said miscreants burn heaps of dry grasses which destroys mangroves.
“This man-made fire has destroyed many full-grown trees. Despite being alert, we are not able to save the hill. Officials have failed to keep a tab on fire instances. People too are responsible for the fires as many people come to party on the hill and set fire to the trees,” said Kar.
D Sonawane, Panvel range forest officer, said, “We were alerted about the fires. The Kharghar hill is big and it is not possible to guard the area.”
“There have been instances where people deliberately set grass and trees on fire. If residents cooperate, we will be able to file cases against those setting the hill on fire. We will ensure more people participation to curb fires,” he added.
An official from wetland committee said, “We have received a complaint and officials have been asked to check the facts, ownership of the land and take necessary action.”
The forest department and mangrove committee have been generating awareness among people of nearby villages about not to set dry grass near mangrove areas on fire.
Hemant Sharma a city-based activist, said, “Between October and March every year, many fire instances are reported from forest and mangrove areas. Security guards should be deployed to guard the areas at least during these months. We have lost a vast expanse of greenery.”