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Thane man fined ₹60.24 lakh for destroying wetland

mumbai Updated: Mar 20, 2018 11:47 IST
Mumbai,Thane,wetland

Based on a complaint by Thane activist Rohit Joshi, the WGC ordered a probe in February this year.(HT PHOTO)

The Thane district administration imposed a fine of Rs60,24,275 on the land owner for destroying mangrove patch near Swami Samarth temple in Kopri, Thane (East). The owner has been accused of dumping debris in the area. However, the land owner refuted the allegations and said he will move court.

The fine levied on the land owner is the highest in a wetland destruction case reported from Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), said members of the Wetland Grievance Committee (WGC). The committee was formed by the Bombay high court in 2016.

Based on a complaint by Thane activist Rohit Joshi, the WGC ordered a probe in February this year.

Violations reported Joshi comprised construction of 1.5-kilometre road, construction of a temple, an open gym, over 60 shanties and a cow shelter. He said the patch destroyed was more than 5-acres of which 2.5 acres comprise a tar road, debris dumping and other illegal structures.

Omprakash Divte, deputy municipal commissioner, Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC), said, “The penalty is identified as restoration charges, which needs to be recovered from Chetan Ramesh Tandel. We have sent the revenue recovery certificate to the district administration to collect the fine and start restoration. Illegal structures have been demolished at the site and the process of debris removal is underway.”

The district administration said it had issued two notices to Tandel in the past. “A response is expected from him in the next 10 days. His land will be confiscated if he fails to respond,” said Thane collector Mahendra Kalyankar.

In his defence, Tandel refuted the allegation levelled against him.

“There was a kuccha road at the site for the past 60 years. I acquired this land in 1988 and the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification was introduced in 1991. Neither have I have dumped debris at the site, nor do I know who’s doing it. I’ve decided to move court,” he added.

Mumbai-based NGO Vanashakti has offered to restore the wetland patch for free by planting mangrove saplings. “Directions issued by the HC committee will make people think twice before destroying wetlands. While this is the largest penalty for MMR; arrests and convictions are the only way to stop such acts against the environment,” said Stalin D, director, Vanshakti.

Though Joshi welcomed the administration’s decision, he was sceptical about the restoration of the area.

“Only 40% debris has been removed by TMC from the site. They had also ordered to remove all illegal encroachments but they have failed to do so. Debris dumping is still on during the night. So, our efforts will go on until the entire site is restored,” said Joshi.

First Published: Mar 20, 2018 11:46 IST