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Navy is destroying mangroves to build golf course in Malad, allege Mumbai environmentalists

Navy says they are clearing shrubs near INS Hamla in Marwe to prevent encroachments, plan to build a boundary wall

mumbai Updated: May 25, 2018 11:52 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
BMC,Mangroves,Bombay high court
Patch of land where mangroves are under threat in Madh island, Malad(HT Photo)

The Navy is destroying mangroves near Indian Navy Station (INS) Hamla in Marwe, Malad to build a golf course, an activist has alleged. The Navy, however, refuted the claim, stating “as the land owner, they are only taking steps to prevent encroachment and boost patrolling”.

In 2005, the Bombay High Court (HC) banned destruction of mangroves and construction within their 50-m periphery across the state.

Reji Abraham, founder and president of United Association for Social, Educational and Public Welfare Trust, on Wednesday filed a complaint with the revenue, police and forest department. “The mangrove destruction, currently underway at Marwe, is in violation of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules. The Navy is carrying out the activity in connivance with political players, land and builder mafia. Documents from the revenue department show they plan to build a golf course there,” he said.

The Navy has a different version. “The land belongs to INS Hamla. We have only been trying to prevent encroachments. We are removing shrubs and other vegetation, so we get space to patrol the area better,” said Commander Sridhar Warrier, chief public relations officer of the Southern Naval Command. “There are no mangroves at the site, so there is no question of destruction. To secure the area, we plan to build a boundary wall, with all clearances. It will not extend towards the creek or mangroves. All our actions are as per the rules. Allegations about plans to construct a golf course in the area are baseless and with malicious intent,” said Warrier.

Officials from the revenue department visited the site on Wednesday and submitted a report to the sub-divisional officer (SDO) of Mumbai suburban. “A boundary wall is being built towards the road near INS Hamla, which is several hundred metres from the mangroves. It is not a violation,” said Babasaheb Pardhe, SDO, Mumbai suburban.

THE EARLIER VIOLATION

On April 20, officers from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had sent a letter highlighting violations at Marwe, including the plot near INS Hamla. HT has a copy of the letter. They directed the Mumbai police (Malwani police station) to take action under Maharashtra Regional Town planning (MRTP) act, but it hasn’t been done so far. A member of the Bombay high court-appointed mangrove destruction redress committee said despite an FIR against the contractor, dumping of debris hasn’t stopped.

“We have taken action against all violators across P-north ward. We are awaiting the compliance report, and will submit it during the next meeting,” said S Shankarwar, deputy municipal commissioner and nodal officer, BMC at the HC committee. “The first FIR was filed in 2016, but the Mumbai police did not file a charge sheet,” said Abraham.

“As it is a sensitive issue involving defence area, we are consulting our legal counsel,” said Milind Panditrao, member secretary of the HC committee.

“I have directed all authorities concerned – BMC, forest department, revenue department and police – to ensure action is taken,” said Jagdish Patil, Konkan commissioner and chairman of the committee.

The Malwani police said BMC officers should be present at the station to take action. “I can’t comment on why the charge sheet has not been filed. Writing to us is not sufficient. Under MRTP act, the BMC officer needs to submit the violation details and take us to the site, after which we can initiate action,” said Dipak Phatangare, senior police inspector, Malwani police station.

First Published: May 25, 2018 00:38 IST