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Tourist buses are being parked illegally at Mumbai’s Dahisar wetlands, reveals probe

The sub-divisional officer, who headed the investigation, said he will inform Borivli court about the violation

mumbai Updated: May 22, 2018 11:13 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
The site where mangroves were destroyed to make parking space for buses. (HT Photo)

More than a month after HT reported that 100 tourist buses parked on mangroves along New Link Road, Dahisar, violated wetland rules and Bombay high court order, the district administration confirmed that the parking lot is illegal and violated environmental norms.

The sub-divisional officer, who headed the investigation said he will be telling the Borivli court about the violation. “We found that 83 buses were parked in the area, a garage is functioning illegally, and after consultation with the state mangrove cell, we saw that it is a violation under Environment Protection Act, 1986, action needs to be taken against the landowner of this plot – Avinash Patil, who is running the bus parking service,” said Babasaheb Pardhe, sub-divisional officer (SDO), Mumbai suburban. “Based on all the documents submitted by us, we will request the court to instruct the police to file a first-information-report (FIR) against Patil. Based on the order, we will remove the buses from the site and shut down the garage.”

Noting the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Bombay Environment Action Group — a city-based NGO — in 2005, the Bombay HC banned the destruction of state-wide mangroves and construction within 50-m of them. After Vanashakti filed another PIL, the HC banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands in 2014.

This is not the first time that mangrove areas have been turned into parking lots. On April 10, HT had reported that in March 2016, 1,000 mangrove trees had been hacked to make way for a parking area for tourist buses along the New Link Road, between Dahisar and Borivli, opposite IC Colony and Bhavdevi Garage. In a follow up HT report from October 2016, the district collector’s office directed an investigation and the buses were removed. However, now the buses were spotted again and environmentalist Harish Pandey filed a complaint in the matter.

Mangrove cell officials who surveyed the site said action needed to be taken sooner. “During the previous violation, we had identified that the distance between the mangroves and the parking area was less than 50m. However, the district administration insisted on another survey. Since it is a violation, doing all this paperwork was a sheer waste of time, and action could have been taken much earlier,” said Prashant Deshmukh, range forest officer (west), Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Unit (MMCU).

A senior police officer from the MHB police station in Borivli said he was aware about the issue and closely tracking it. “As per Bombay High Court orders, we cannot take suo motu action in such cases. However, we are aware about the violation, and the minute the court tells us to act against the alleged accused, we will take up the corrective measures,” he said.

Meanwhile, the complainant said it was ridiculous that the authorities needed a month to discover this was a violation. “Unnecessary paperwork between departments has delayed much needed action against these violators by over a month. This is happening at the cost of the city’s environment. Even if the buses are removed, it is too late for restoration to be carried out at the site, and flooding is inevitable this monsoon,” said Harish Pandey, secretary, New Link Road Residents Forum.

First Published: May 22, 2018 11:12 IST