9,050 mangrove trees razed in Uran in 2018 for government projects
In what may be one of the major cases of mangrove destruction in Maharashtra, 9,050 mangrove trees across 10 hectares have been destroyed in the Uran taluka in Raigad district this year, according to the district administration.
More than half of these trees — 4,550 of them — were destroyed in the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) area. The remaining trees were razed for the construction of a bridge along National Highway (NH) 348, originally part of NH4, a site inspection on Monday, by a circle officer (revenue) and a few activists showed.
“We found high tide water was completely cut off after the bridge was built and no attempts have been made to restore the area,” said Lakshman Thakur, the circle officer (revenue), Uran.
Officials of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), however, said they were unaware of any mangrove destruction.
“Even if there was, restoration is the forest department’s responsibility,” a senior NHAI official from Mumbai said.
Acting on a series complaints filed by environment groups – the Nature Connect and Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishtan (SEAP) – the state mangroves committee had directed the revenue and forest departments to investigate and report violations during their last meeting in November.
“We already filed a first information report (FIR) against JNPT in the first case last month. The local police said it would take at least two months to investigate details of the case. Now, we will push for an FIR against the National Highways Authority of India and the swift restoration of these sites. The matter will be taken up on priority in our next meeting,” said JR Gowda, member secretary, state mangroves committee and deputy conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.
The landowner of NH348, the City Industrial Development Corporation Ltd (Cidco) said a notice was issued last week to NHAI. “We are aware of the mangroves destroyed at Uran, and have asked NHAI to immediately restore the area. If they fail to respond, we will have to take criminal action against them,” said Pramod Patil, nodal officer (environment), Cidco.
Environmentalists said most of their complaints had fallen on deaf ears. “Rapid development activities have changed the entire seascape and land-use pattern in Uran. Fishing areas and bird habitats are all gone,” said Nandakumar Pawar, head, SEAP. “We had raised an alarm in early 2018 itself. If the state would have heard us out and acted accordingly, things would not have come to this point,” said BN Kumar, environmentalist, Nature Connect.