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Squatters destroyed 1 hectare of Mumbai mangroves to build 500 shanties

The Bombay high court banned destruction of mangrove forests across the state and construction within 50m of mangrove areas in 2005

mumbai Updated: Jan 19, 2018 09:26 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Satellite image shows how the mangrove forest was destroyed to build Naya Nagar slum pocket.

The Naya Nagar slum in Oshiwara, Andheri (West), where recurring cases of mangrove burning have been reported over the past month, used to be a mangrove forest prior to 2005.

In a letter to the district collector and Borivli revenue officer (tehsildar), the state mangrove cell said that the one-hectare slum, which has 500 shanties, used to be a mangrove forest and need to cleared of the encroachments.

HT had reported on December 27 and January 3 that residents of the area had been shooting video footages of encroachers systematically destroyed the mangrove forest adjacent to Bhagat Singh slums by burning trees and dumping debris on the charred vegetation.

“After a detailed survey was undertaken at this site, we found that while the municipal corporation was collecting waste from the Bhagat Singh slums regularly. Residents of Navy Nagar slums were dumping their garbage less than 50 metres into the mangrove patch, where it is regularly being burnt,” said Prashant Deshmukh, range forest officer, western region, Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Unit.

Destruction of mangroves is illegal under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The Bombay High Court banned destruction of mangrove forests across the state and construction within 50m of mangrove areas in 2005.

He added, “When we tallied current satellite images with those from before 2005, a clear distinction was visible. Mangroves were clearly seen at the patch before 2005, which have been destroyed over the years.”

Senior mangrove cell officers confirmed the survey report. “This is a largescale violation that has gone unchecked. The collector’s office needs to take immediate action and remove these slums or else the remaining mangrove patch can be wiped out,” said Makarand Ghodke, assistant conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.

Officials from the district administration said they had already initiated action regarding the alleged violation. “We are verifying the report submitted by the mangrove cell, and once this is complete, immediate action will be taken. We will instruct the police to file a first-information-report (FIR), and remove illegal structures less than 50m from the mangrove patch,” said Deependra Singh Kushwa, Mumbai suburban collector.

The residents said there was no effort to control the destruction and recurring fires continued at the mangrove patch.

“Rather than caring about who the land belongs to (whether it is private or government land), authorities need to come together and safeguard what’s left of this patch before it is completely lost,” said Dhaval Shah from Lokhandwala Oshiwara Citizens Association (LOCA) who filed the first complaint in the matter.

First Published: Jan 19, 2018 09:26 IST