Mumbai lost 20 acres of mangrove forests to debris in 7 years, made way for encroachers
Dumping of debris has destroyed more than 20 acres of mangrove forests in Charkop, Kandivli in Mumbai over the past seven years, making way for encroachment by 3,000 shanties and private properties.
The violations were brought to light on Wednesday during a monthly meeting of the Maharashtra government’s committee for protection and conservation of mangroves, which was attended by suburban collector, police personnel, mangrove cell, Konkan divisional commissioner and civic officials.
“Closer to the Manori creek, there is a 100-acre mangrove patch. But in the corners of Charkop village, builders and land mafia have reduced the cover to barren patches,” said Reji Abraham, environmentalist and member of the committee, who shows the maps and pictures of the destruction at the meeting. “Local authorities have helped builders in hacking mangrove trees and building prime property.”
According to Abraham, three mangrove patches have been wiped out through debris dumping – one patch near Laxmi Nagar , another patch facing Charkop village and one near Jalaram temple.
“Between Dingeshwar temple and Jalaram temple, more than 1,300 huts, commercial galas, pucca chawls and tin sheds have been constructed illegally,” said Abraham, adding, “Around 1,700 structures have come up close to Laxmi Nagar and Dingeshwar Talao.”
In 2005, acting on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Bombay Environment Action Group, the Bombay high court banned destruction of mangrove forests across the state and construction within 50m of mangrove areas. In 2014, NGO Vanashakti filed another PIL on protection of wetlands which led to a ban reclamation and construction on wetlands.
In October 2016, the Bombay high court constituted a committee to ensure safety of mangroves and implement a grievance redress mechanism to contain mangrove destruction.
HT had reported on April 25 reported that 216 illegal structures – 30 commercial establishments and 186 shanties – were removed from a 3-hectare mangrove patch on reserved forest area at Charkop, Kandivli. The mangrove cell called it their largest demolition drive in Mumbai on government land so far.
“There are no illegal structures on the reserved mangrove forests. We are looking into the dumping of debris at the spot,” said Makarand Ghodke, assistant conservator of forest, Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Unit.
“We have already told the civic body to remove the structures in their jurisdiction . Our deputy collectors have been told to initiate action in the coming days,” said Deependra Singh Kushwa, Mumbai suburban collector.