JNPT destroyed 19-ha mangroves in Uran, activists tell MCZMA, HC panel

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Published on Dec 26, 2019 12:10 AM IST
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ByBadri Chatterjee, Mumbai

Environmentalists have written to the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) and the Bombay high court (HC)-appointed mangrove committee, seeking the withdrawal of permission given to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), Navi Mumbai, for its 200-hectare (ha) container terminal project, on the grounds that the latter destroyed 19.5ha of mangroves in Uran, in alleged violation of coastal regulation zone (CRZ) norms. SV Madbhavi, chief manager, JNPT, however, said they have borne the cost of “compensatory afforestation” for the destruction of mangroves and “ensured protection of maximum mangroves”.

An MCZMA official said the complaint had been forwarded to the Raigad collector and a report has been sought regarding the allegations. The HC-appointed committee said they will be taking up the matter in subsequent meetings.

JNPT obtained an environmental clearance (EC) from the Centre in 2008 to reclaim 200ha in order to build storage yards, internal roads, railway containers, depots, parking areas, office buildings, etc, in phase 1 of its fourth container terminal and marine chemical terminal project. The EC also sanctioned the destruction of 19.5ha of mangroves. The port trust sought an extension in 2014 as the project could not be completed on time.

According to NatConnect and Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan (SEAP), which collected information on the project through a right to information (RTI) application, work across 110ha in the first phase destroyed 19.5-ha mangrove areas, violating CRZ norms. A September 2018 order of the HC also bans all constructions in mangrove areas across Maharashtra. JNPT obtained the EC from MCZMA earlier in 2019 for the second phase of the project. The environmentalists claimed that JNPT will now begin reclamation on the remaining 90-ha area, which may lead to destruction of more mangroves and water bodies across Uran. They have alleged that JNPT violated the conditions set by MCZMA while issuing the EC, including the mandate that there can be “no construction on mangroves or in its 50-m buffer zone”.

Along with their complaint to MCZMA and the HC-appointed mangrove monitoring and conservation committee, NatConnect and SEAP have attached photographic evidence of JNPT’s violations in mangrove areas. “Large tracts of mangrove forests have either been destroyed through debris-dumping or the high tide water channels have been blocked for this project. These are brazen violations of the EC,” said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation. Nandkumar Pawar, head, SEAP, said the JNPT work was interfering with the fishing community’s movements. “It is causing great inconvenience to the community in carrying on their trade, which is another key condition of the EC — that livelihood of local residents should not be hampered,” Pawar said.

Madbhavi, however, said they have made a “commitment” to MCZMA to not touch mangrove patches and buffer areas in the second phase. “For the 19.5-ha mangroves destroyed, compensatory afforestation was done by the forest department and JNPT bore the cost. We ensured protection of maximum mangroves. Patches that were lost have also been restored after allowing tidal water flow,” said Madbhavi.

Through a series of reports over the past one-and-a-half years, HT has highlighted how more than 10,000ha of mangroves and wetlands in Uran have been destroyed, including areas under JNPT’s jurisdiction.

JNPT’s contractor has previously been fined 1 lakh by the forest department for destroying 4,550 mangroves.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2021