BMC asked to restore mangroves at 15 sites by end of July
Irked by the seven-month delay in restoration of degraded mangrove forest in 15 locations in Mumbai, Maharashtra’s mangroves committee will now issue a stern warning to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) chief Praveen Pardeshi, asking him to complete it by the end of this month. The BMC, however, said they need to resolve issues such as funding and arrangements for debris dumping before starting the work.
The committee, formed in accordance with a Bombay high court (HC) order which held its fifth meeting on Saturday, had identified 15 reclaimed locations that needed to be restored in November.
“Restoration of already reclaimed mangrove areas is a major issue in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region,” said Neenu Somraj, deputy conservator of forest, state mangrove cell and member secretary of the HC-appointed committee.
“Areas falling within municipal limits have to be taken up by the BMC and we have asked them to come up with solutions. The issue needs to be resolved by the end of July, as there has been a delay of more than seven months now. Despite repeated reminders to officers attending the meeting since January, there has been no improvement. We will now take up the matter with the civic chief.”
Ashok Khaire, deputy municipal commissioner, BMC, said, “We are working on it. We need to address a few issues before initiating work. Most important are funds, as this activity is actually the responsibility of district collectors. Secondly, we do not dump debris at the city landfills, so special arrangements have to be made for transportation and dumping of debris in private areas, where construction and demolition waste is dumped.”
In September, an HC bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice Riyaz Chagla directed the Maharashtra government to restore degraded mangrove sites and areas that have been recovered from encroachers. “In what manner the restoration shall be done must be decided by the committee headed by the divisional commissioner after consulting experts in the field. The committee shall also identify vulnerable mangroves areas along the Konkan coast,” the order read. “We will wait for a month to see how the BMC follows up on the restoration and check the survival rate of compensatory afforestation projects by the state. Based on the results, we will put forth our representations before the HC,” said petitioner in the matter Debi Goenka, executive trustee, Conservation Action Trust.
Independent members of the HC committee said the BMC had not given any commitment to the committee despite the delay. “Not a single site has been restored so far, even after requests and directions were issued to the BMC during every meeting since the HC order. The state is deliberately wasting time and allowing ecologically sensitive areas to be taken up for real estate development,” said Stalin D from Vanashakti and member of the committee.