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HT Impact: Maharashtra government issues notice to JNPT for dumping plastic waste in sea

Also seeks explanation over mangrove destruction claims in Uran

mumbai Updated: Jun 10, 2018 00:46 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,JNPT,marine litter
Plastic waste severely affects aquatic life. 2016. (REPRESENTATIONAL PHOTO/HT FILE)

The state environment department has pulled up the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), Navi Mumbai, for dumping plastic waste along with material dredged up during the dredging of the port’s channel, in the sea 12 kilometres off the Mumbai coast for the past eight months.

The port has also been asked to explain the allegations that it has violated environmental laws by destroying mangrove forests in Uran taluka without clearances from the state mangrove cell. The notice issued to JNPT on Friday quoted an HT report on June 4 about mangrove destruction across four villages in Uran.

Satish Gavai, additional chief secretary, state environment department, said there are clear directions that plastic waste should be removed from dredged material such as sand, silt and rocks before it is dumped in the sea. “It is shocking to note that 50,000 tonnes of plastic is stuck to the city’s mangroves according to details from the state mangrove cell published by HT. Considering a ban already issued by the state, and efforts to reduce the plastic problem are underway, we have asked JNPT to identify steps taken to segregate plastic trash from the dredged material to protect coastal areas,” said Gavai.

Gavai added that complaints from fishermen and the forest department’s assessment show that over 20 tonnes of plastic is being dumped daily in the sea by JNPT. “We will await their response, and take necessary follow-up action against them,” said Gavai, who is also the chairman of the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA). “As a part of the same notice, we have asked JNPT to clarify their stand on why so many cases of mangrove destruction have been reported if there have been clear instructions for no removal of mangroves from this site by MCZMA.”

Residents of Uran said that the state government had directed the City Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) - the planning agency for Navi Mumbai - to verify the mangrove destruction cases reported by HT. “An official from Cidco went to all six locations HT reported about and said he will be submitting a report to the state,” said Ramdas Koli, petitioner in the Uran matter in the Supreme Court. Cidco refused to comment in the matter.

A JNPT official said they had already told HT that there was no plastic accumulation in the dredged material since it was a floating material. “It is a highly technical process with our machines spread across only 4% of the harbour catching solid material, which disperses into the sea within four months of dumping. These allegations are wrong, and we will submit our claims to the state,” said SV Madabhavi, chief manager – Port, Planning and Development, JNPT. Madabhavi added that the mangroves issue was sub-judice. “There has been no mangrove destruction and the trees have actually rejuvenated. This is will be highlighted in the Supreme Court.”

JNPT received permission in May last year for dredging the port basin - to deepen it -and the state environment department had identified a site 12km offshore to dump the dredged material. About 100,000 cubic metre of dredged debris are being taken out per day since September from a 45 sq kilometres site. The details came to light during the last week of May when fishermen from Cuffe Parade had approached the state government regarding the issue, and said fishing nets were filled with plastic trash . “We welcome the step taken by the government but since monsoon has already started, the amount of plastic waste has already begun spreading across our fishing areas due to high waves,” the complainant said, on the condition of anonymity.

A study by the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany, conducted last year had revealed that the seas near Mumbai, Kerala and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are among the most polluted ones in the world, with maximum amount of plastic accumulation.

First Published: Jun 10, 2018 00:46 IST