Alarm raised over systematic destruction of mangroves in Maharashtra for land grab

Activists allege that they have made several complaints to all the concerned authorities, who sadly appear to be unconcerned.
The act of destruction of mangroves appears to be picking up momentum as the deadline to hand it over to the forest department is near.(Hindustan Times pHoto)
The act of destruction of mangroves appears to be picking up momentum as the deadline to hand it over to the forest department is near.(Hindustan Times pHoto)
Published on Dec 31, 2020 12:05 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Mumbai | ByNeha LM Tripathi | Edited by Abhinav Sahay

Environmentalists have raised concerns over the massive destruction of mangroves at Ulwe and Kharghar in Raigad district and Vashi in Thane district of Maharashtra. They have appealed to the Bombay high court appointed mangrove protection and conservation committee to intervene before the sea forests vanish. The development comes before the mangroves’ land gets transferred to the forest department.

Navi Mumbai based environment protection organisation NatConnect Foundation alleged that the attempt to destroy the mangroves’ land appears to be systemic.

“This appears to be a methodical, systematic conspiracy by the land grabbers to destroy the mangroves, dry up the area before the forest department steps in,” said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation.

“The act of destruction of mangroves appears to be picking up momentum as the Mangrove committee has given a final deadline to Mumbai, Thane and Raigad district collectors and CIDCO to transfer unreserved mangroves under their respective jurisdiction to the forest department, following NatConnect’s complaints,” Kumar said.

While the Maharashtra government has notified 15,312 hectare (ha) as reserved forest under the Indian Forest Act (IFA), 1,500 ha is yet to be transferred by the revenue department to the forest department for better protection as per the directives of the Bombay high court in September 2018.

Also Read: Green panel asks Maharashtra government to expedite transfer of mangrove land

Additionally, state agencies need to hand over approximately 2,000 ha of green land in their possession. With an idea to get undeclared mangroves under protection, agencies such as the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) have to demarcate, identify and transfer mangrove areas under their jurisdiction, first to the revenue department, which will then verify their submissions and transfer the areas to the forest department.

Indicating illegal activities like dumping debris on mangroves’ land at a few other places of Navi Mumbai, like Ulwe sector 8, environment lover Rajini V said, “It is shocking as it is happening in (the) public view and no authority appears to bother.”

Complaints of a large scale destruction of mangroves in a one kilometre stretch at Gavan and another in Kharkopar village have also been made by environment enthusiasts.

Also Read: Mumbai’s Aarey flooded for the 1st time, walls blamed for choking floodplains

“This demonstrates that there is no respect for either the law or the high court order as mangroves are being destroyed in village after village across Raigad district, environmentalist Nandakumar Pawar said.

Activist Nareshchandra Singh urged Kharghar residents not to remain silent spectators to the destruction of mangroves in the area. CIDCO and Panvel Municipal Corporation have turned a blind eye to the land grab, alleged Singh.

“We have made several complaints to all the concerned authorities who are sadly appearing to be unconcerned,” said another Kharghar activist Tarang Sarin.

Belapur-based activists also alleged that intermittently, mangroves are being killed with the help of dry grass in the periphery of the under construction Navi Mumbai International Airport.

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