Airport authorities destroyed water body near Sahar village: NGO
MIAL officials denied the allegation, terming it ‘false’ and ‘baseless’Updated: Apr 11, 2017 11:28 IST
Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) destroyed a water body near Sahar village by dumping debris into it over time, alleged city-based non-governmental organisation (NGO).
NGO Watchdog Foundation filed complaints with the Union Environment Ministry and the civic body on Monday, alleging that the quarter-of-an-acre water body was destroyed almost 10 years ago. The NGO submitted satellite images of the water body as it stood in 2013, the state of the body in 2007 — when the Mumbai airport was privatised — and 2017, when the body cannot be seen at all.
“The water body was clearly visible earlier. The members of my NGO and I along have seen proof of its existence up till 2007,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation. “In 2007, the maps clearly show that the size of the water body was scaled down to almost negligible through the dumping of debris. Now, 10 years later, the water body has vanished,” he said.
MIAL officials denied the allegation, terming it ‘false’ and ‘baseless’. “Our records show that such a water body has never existed. Protecting the environment is of prime importance to us, and as a responsible organisation, we ensure absolute accountability in all our endeavours,” said a spokesperson from MIAL.
Pimenta said the NGO could not procure pictures of the lake as MIAL had cordoned off the area, citing ‘security concerns’. “The central government is coming up with schemes to repair, renovate and restore such water bodies. But, this case is a blatant violation of environmental laws. Massive environmental damage has taken place, but no one is aware of it,” said Pimenta.
Water bodies such as lakes, ponds or tanks stabilise the coastline, control erosion, provide a habitat for plant and animal species, prevent floods and purify and increase the groundwater level during monsoons. They also regulate climate change by storing carbon.
A 2001 Supreme Court order states that natural resources such as forests, tanks, ponds, hillocks, and mountains are integral to maintaining the ecological balance and need to be protected. It also states that if such sites fall into disuse, they cannot be used to build houses.Instead, authorities are ‘duty-bound’ to clean and develop them to prevent an ecological disaster.
Civic body officials said they had not received the complaint. “We have past records of water bodies according to the development plan maps. We will check if the water body existed. We will investigate whether there has been a violation,” said a senior official from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
A comprehensive mapping of the city’s water bodies in 2007-08 by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region-Environment Improvement Society (MMR-EIS) found that of the city’s 103 water bodies, only 10 were listed in the 1991 DP as either tanks or lakes. While six were classified as tanks, three as lakes and one as both a tank and a playground, none of these were protected under water body reservations.
Status of water bodies in Mumbai
A study found that 68 of Mumbai’s lakes were uncared for
Of these, garbage was dumped in 63.2%
About 60% were used to wash clothes and as toilets, with 22% used for bathing
Religious offerings were disposed of in 41% of the lakes
Sewage was released into 32.4%
(Source: A study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for Nature in 2009)
What can you do?
If you live near a water body, make sure you photograph it. It can stand as evidence in court if there’s ever an attempt to reclaim it.
If you see truckloads of debris being dumped into it, inform your ward officer and police station.
You can file a written complaint to them as well as the city or suburban collector.
Those involved in dumping debris —from the developer to the contract workers — can be booked under various criminal charges and under the Environment Protection Act.
If you want to get a polluted water body cleaned in your neighbourhood, contact the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board on 022-24020781 / 24014701 / 24010437
First Published: Apr 11, 2017 11:09 IST