Mumbai records most environmental offences among major cities for second consecutive year
Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, recorded the highest number of offences under the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA), 1986, in 2019 among 19 major Indian cities for the second consecutive year, the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) latest report has revealed.
In the backdrop of the report, the Mumbai city collector on Wednesday directed the Mumbai Police to file first information reports (FIRs) against Indian Army personnel at the Sagarmatha Club in Colaba and landowners at a wetland in Wadala following alleged violations of the EPA, 1986.
“Violators in both the cases must be booked within the next seven days,” said Rajeev Nivatkar, collector, Mumbai city.
EPA, 1986 violations are related to felling of trees, cutting of mangroves, flouting of coastal regulation zones (CRZs), dumping debris in eco-sensitive zones, illegal quarrying and cutting of hills, and other offences related to air and water pollution.
NCRB data revealed that of the 20 cases recorded under EPA, 1986 in 2019, Mumbai was the worst offender at eight, followed by Hyderabad (6), Nagpur (5), and Chennai (1).
In 2018, a city-wise environmental crime data was published by the NCRB for the first time, where Mumbai had recorded 10 cases, which was the highest among the 19 cities surveyed.
However, the NCRB figure was a fraction, as compared to the data collated by the Maharashtra revenue department.
According to the Mumbai suburban collector’s office, violations under the EPA, 1986 were 244 in 2019 against 286 in 2018. While similar violations in Mumbai city were 56 in 2019, as compared to 68 in 2018.
“The reason for fewer cases documented by the NCRB vis-à-vis revenue department data is because environmental offence information is submitted by the Mumbai Police, who record fewer cases as compared to the revenue department, which is empowered to file offences under the EPA Act, 1986,” said an Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) official, the monitoring agency for such violations.
“NCRB and revenue department data are indicative of proper reporting and documentation of cases in both Mumbai and Maharashtra, as compared to other states,” he added.
The NCRB data for EPA, 1986 offences for Maharashtra showed 42 cases in 2019, as compared to 45 in 2018.
It was the second-highest offence last year after Uttar Pradesh (UP), which had recorded 382 cases. However, the tally of environment-related offences -- all acts clubbed under environmental crime such as the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972; the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000; the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981; EPA, 1986; and Indian Forest Act, 1927 -- was 1,004 across Maharashtra last year.
The corresponding cases in 2016 and 2017 were 176 and 439, respectively. The offences had gone up exponentially to 1,010 cases in 2018.
“Better detection and a rigorous follow up by the state authorities coupled with awareness among the public for reporting cases led to the marginal decline last year,” said Sanjay Sandanshiv, undersecretary, environment department, Maharashtra.
No cases were reported for offences under forest laws, air and noise pollution or the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act, 2010. While four cases were reported under violations of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
The environmentalists have welcomed the Mumbai city collector’s move to book offenders in the two cases.
The first one involved repeated complaints by environment group, Conservation Action Trust (CAT), alleging dumping of illegal debris to reclaim land along the periphery of Sagarmatha club in Navy Nagar Colaba by the Indian Army. The alleged move has led to wanton mangrove destruction.
The Army claims that the debris is intended to fortify the club against sea erosion.
“We are happy that the Mumbai city collector has again reiterated his decision to book the club authorities. Reclamation and destruction of mangroves has been continuing for years, despite innumerable complaints. The collector has also agreed to order the removal of the debris and undertake mangrove plantation for trees destroyed in the area. This is the most important step that was long overdue,” said Debi Goenka, executive trustee, CAT.
The second case is on the basis of complaints filed by Vanashakti, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), regarding dumping of debris and encroachments across an 80-acre wetland located 500 metres (m) from Bhakti Park Monorail station along the eastern freeway in Wadala.
The area is identified as wetland under the Maharashtra National Wetland Atlas, 2011 and is home to a 10-acre water body. However, encroachers built a road for the movement of trucks to the site to dump construction waste. “The state machinery seems to have woken up after almost 19 months to remove the debris and also initiate prosecution. We hope it won’t be delayed further and the culprits will be booked soon,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti.
OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES IN MAHARASHTRA IN 2019
Maharashtra also recorded 89 and 53 cases under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules,2000, respectively, according to the NCRB data.
These are the third and the fourth-highest cases in the country, respectively.
Data revealed that only two cases were filed under various forest laws.
But no case was registered under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act,1974 even though Maharashtra recorded the highest number of polluted cities.
The state is also home to the maximum number of polluted river stretches (54) in the country.
HIGHEST CASES IN INDIA
Tamil Nadu (13,316), followed by Rajasthan (10,782), and Kerala (5,054) recorded the maximum number of environmental cases last year, according to the NCRB data.
While the least number of environmental crimes were reported from the north-eastern states, Himachal Pradesh (HP), Goa, and Odisha, the data showed.