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Hope alive for dying Uran mangroves

Days after the landmark Bombay high court (HC) order that stressed on mangrove protection across the state, the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) has decided to make efforts to restore the coastal patches

mumbai Updated: Sep 27, 2018 12:36 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Uran mangroves,Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust,Bombay high court
Mangroves of Sewri Creek in Mumbai, India, on Friday, April 13, 2018. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)

Days after the landmark Bombay high court (HC) order that stressed on mangrove protection across the state, the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) has decided to make efforts to restore the coastal patches that had dried up as a result of nearby construction work.

The Trust has opened culverts allowing high-tide water access to 4,550 dead or dried up trees in a bid to restore a 4.5-hectare mangrove patch located near Hovercraft Jetty (container terminal-4) in Uran, Navi Mumbai.

A senior JNPT official said that the mangrove trees and bushes have already begun rejuvenating at the site.

“During the construction of a road for JNPT’s container terminal-4 which began two years ago, culverts constructed under a railway line got choked as a result of rubble and tar, and the ingress of tidal water had stopped. Now these blockages have been opened up and the entire patch will be restored over the next six months,” the official said.

“Destruction of mangroves offended the fundamental rights of the citizens and hence it was a mandatory duty of the state and its agencies and instrumentalities to protect and preserve the mangroves,” the HC bench said in its hearing.

One of the primary directions by the HC bench comprising justices Abhay Oka and Riyaz Chagla, on September 17, stated: “We direct that it is the obligation of the state to replant destructed mangroves and to restore mangrove areas which are illegally reclaimed. The said areas shall be restored to their original condition.”

HT had first identified the violation in June after large tracts of mangrove trees in Uran were either hacked, destroyed through debris dumping, or killed by cutting of high-tide water due to construction activity carried out by JNPT.

On June 15, the forest department had confirmed 4,550 trees had dried up or died due to the blockages. In July, the wetland grievance committee constituted by the HC had pulled up the Raigad district administration and the City Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) to explain why action had not been taken against large-scale mangrove destruction.

Despite the recent efforts by JNPT, environmentalists believe the restoration measure is being taken too late. “JNPT could have done this in June itself, and the trees might have survived but now, a majority of these trees are dead,” said Nandkumar Pawar, founder-director of Shree Ekavira Aai Pratishtan (SEAP); a Navi Mumbai based NGO. “The trees were killed systematically for infrastructure development. Even though the forest department confirmed the violation, nobody was held accountable.”

SEAP also identified another location at Uran – a 4.6-hectare mangrove patch at Punjab CFS Road, along JNPT – where another 4,600 mangrove trees have dried up (see satellite map).

“The site is a replica of what happened at the container terminal 4 area where the trees are dying a slow death as high-tide water is blocked off,” said Pawar.

JNPT claimed that the Trust was not aware of the issue.”We will, however, send someone to check the issue,” said the Trust official.

First Published: Sep 27, 2018 04:32 IST