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Satellite images show how illegal reclamation shrunk Mumbai’s Aarey lake by 40% in 7 years

The lake is like a small wetland and urgent steps need to be taken to protect it, say experts

mumbai Updated: Sep 11, 2017 13:35 IST
Mumbai news,environment,reclaimation of water body
The lake, inside Royal Palms - a private housing and entertainment complex, which was half-an-acre in area, has reduced to less than a quarter-of-an-acre.

Satellite images of a lake inside Aarey Milk Colony, Goregaon, near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), reveals that illegal reclamation has reduced the water body to 40% of its original area between 2009 and 2017.

The lake, inside Royal Palms - a private housing and entertainment complex, which was half-an-acre in area, had reduced to less than a quarter-of-an-acre, non-governmental organisation (NGO) Vanashakti said in a complaint to the Konkan Commissioner, Mumbai suburban collector and forest department. The complaint warned that there could be plans to drain the lake completely.

A satellite image of the lake in 2009.

“This water body is an important source of drinking water for wildlife, including leopards that frequent the area and it is an integral part of the forest landscape. The site ideally should be part of SGNP but due to private ownership, it has not been reflecting in the forest records,” said Stalin D, director, NGO Vanshakti.

Satellite image of the lake in 2015. The water body has visibly shrunk.

“It has come to our notice that the water body is being drained out and is being reclaimed through debris dumping.”

Stalin, who has the satellite images which show the shrinking of the lake, added, “The lake is like a small wetland and urgent steps need to be taken to protect it,” he said.

Satellite image of the lake take this year, where the water body has visibly shrunk.

A 2001 Supreme Court order stated that natural resources like forests, tanks, ponds, hillocks, and mountains are important for maintaining the ecological balance and needs to be protected. It also stated that if fallen to disuse, these sites cannot be used for building houses and authorities are “duty bound” to clean and develop them to prevent an ecological disaster.

Meanwhile, officials from the forest department and the Mumbai suburban collector’s office said they were not aware about any such reclamation, but will depute officers to survey the site.

The Konkan divisional collector, on the other hand, said he was aware about the complaint. “We will take stock of the situation during our next monthly wetland grievance cell meeting. The forest department and the collector will be asked about the steps taken by them to restore this water body,” said Jagdish Patil, Konkan commissioner.

Why you should care

Water bodies such as lakes, ponds or tanks stabilise the coastline, control erosion and provide habitat for plant and animal species, prevent floods and purify and increase the groundwater level during monsoons. They also regulate climate change by storing carbon. Besides, they also contribute to the country’s economy by providing fishery resources, timber, wildlife resources, medicines and agricultural products.

What you can do

If you live close to a water body, make sure you photograph it. It can stand as evidence in court if there’s ever an attempt to reclaim it.

If you see debris and refill being dumped into a water body, inform your municipal ward officer and police station. As a step further, file a written complaint to them as well as the city or suburban collector.

Those involved in dumping debris, from the developer to the contract workers, can be booked under various criminal charges and under the Environment Protection Act.

First Published: Sep 11, 2017 13:34 IST

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