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Demolition drive begins to clear illegal shanties at Mumbai’s 10-acre mangrove patch

Locals had previously complained that wetlands were being burnt to construct houses

mumbai Updated: Feb 11, 2018 00:41 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
mumbai,versova creek,mangrove
The district administration started a series of demolition drives at a 10-acre mangrove patch near Yari Road in Versova on Friday.(HT file photo)

The district administration started a series of demolition drives at a 10-acre mangrove patch near Yari Road in Versova on Friday.

Mumbai suburban collector Deependra Singh Kushwa said that of the 180-odd shanties that had been identified, 65 were removed on Friday. The next demolition drive is slotted for Wednesday, and all shanties will be removed by the weekend, he said.

“We acted on complaints from residents and newspaper reports, which noted the presence of illegal settlements along the Versova creek. My officers and I visited the site last month and found that the Environment Protection Act, 1986, had been violated. Such incidents will not be tolerated,” said Kushwa.

He added that restoration activity will be taken up along the creek upon the completion of the drive.

on January 18,19 and 25, Hindustan Times had reported on the complaints raised by the residents regarding recurring fires at the mangrove patch on private land. HT reporters, who visited the site on January 20, found that the shanties have electric supply, direct-to-home television services, and mobile toilets. The shanty owners told the reporters that they do not pay rent and are protected by local politicians who they vote for every election.

The Yari Road Bachao group, comprising mostly residents, had alleged that the mangroves were being burnt to construct houses and fire outbreaks had become a recurring feature. The shanty owners, however, denied setting fire to mangroves.

Residents welcomed the demolition drive, but are skeptical about encroachments resurfacing in the area. Yari Road resident Suneet Gandhi, along with others, visited the site on Saturday and noted that some of the shanties are being rebuilt.

“Burning mangrove trees and tyres, and dumping rubble had become a health hazard for residents as the smell and the smoke was reducing the air quality of the area. We look forward to this not repeating in the future,” said Gandhi.

Another resident Sameer Kapoor, who has been communicating with the collector and mangrove cell, said, “We hope that these encroachments do not come up again. The district administration needs to barricade the area and ensure speedy restoration of the buffer zone from the creek. We will keep following up on the matter until it is resolved.”

Mangroves, which are deemed to be highly ecologically sensitive, harbour a variety of flora and fauna and protect the city from coastal inundation. Destruction of mangroves is illegal under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. It declares mangrove patches as Coastal Regulation Zones, restricting the discharge of untreated water and industrial effluents, dumping of waste, land reclamation and bunding.Acting on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Bombay Environment Action Group, the Bombay High Court banned construction activity within 50 metres of mangrove areas across the state in 2005.

First Published: Feb 11, 2018 00:39 IST