Even before Maharashtra forest department acts on complaints, more mangroves hacked at Panje, Uran
Within a span of three days, over 50 mangrove trees have been chopped at the ecologically sensitive Panje area in Uran by unknown persons, alleged environmentalists and locals.
On Friday, local resident and birder Parag Gharat found that 40 mangrove trees were hacked towards the creek-end of Panje from where high-tide water flows into the area. “The mangroves are being hacked overnight or early morning and the branches are being left at the site itself,” he said.
The Maharashtra forest department said the violation comes even before they could commence their investigation at the site. Gharat had spotted similar violations towards the central part of the 213-hectare (ha) migratory bird roosting area on Wednesday, leading to a series of complaints filed by environmentalists.
“There are very few trees left at the site and we are losing them at a rapid pace,” said Gharat.
Environmentalist Aishwarya Sridhar said, “These mangrove trees, around five- to six-foot-tall each, used to be the roosting point for cormorants, golden plovers, owlets and was home to a large biodiversity. It has all been lost.”
Destruction of mangrove and construction within 50 metres of them was banned by the Bombay high court (HC) in September 2018.
Based on Gharat’s information, environment group Conservation Action Trust (CAT) on Friday filed a complaint with various bodies of the Maharashtra government and a HC-appointed high-power committee consisting state secretaries. They had also filed a complaint on Wednesday. “Repeated offences are happening at the same location, and the forest department has not thought it necessary to deploy staff there on a permanent basis. Nor have they carried out a detailed investigation of these violations with the help of the police,” said Debi Goenka, executive trustee, CAT.
Neenu Somraj, deputy conservator of forest (mangrove cell), said, “We have sought comments from Raigad district collector on this issue. The range forest officer has been directed to submit a report immediately. In the meantime, the matter will be raised during our next HC-appointed committee meeting in September.”
The west side of Panje wetland is bordered with a narrow patch of mangrove (300-500-metre wide and 1.5-km long) which has been declared as Coastal Regulation Zone-I (having highest ecological protection) by the state government. The mangrove destruction was reported from this patch.
“Land mafia operating out of Uran is hacking the trees as long as rainwater and high tide ingress is there. The minute weather conditions turn dry, they show that the area is devoid of mangroves to allow construction on it. It is high time the chief minister takes cognisance of rampant ecological destruction and fishing community’s livelihood,” said Stalin D, member of the HC-appointed committee.
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