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Uran fishermen move HC to save mangroves from construction

They claim it is a “violation of Coastal Zone Regulation (CRZ) Notification, 2011”.

mumbai Updated: Nov 22, 2018 00:44 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Maharashtra,Uran wetlands
Wetlands in Nerul are under threat from urbanisation(HT Photo)

Blaming government agencies for destroying protected mangrove forests by carrying out construction activities, fishermen from Uran in Navi Mumbai have moved the Bombay high court (HC) over the “violation of Coastal Zone Regulation (CRZ) Notification, 2011”.

The petitioners – environmentalist Nandkumar Pawar and fishing group Hanuman Koliwada Macchimar Samiti – alleged that City Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco), the planning agency for Navi Mumbai, has cut off intertidal water channels to mangrove forests. “The tidal flow to estuaries, creeklets and other coastal ecosystem has been blocked across Uran leading to destruction of mangroves, which in turn is allowing Cidco to create and reclaim ecologically sensitive areas for commercial exploitation,” said Pawar.

HT has a copy of the petition submitted with satellite images. “They clearly demonstrate that land was illegally reclaimed for the purpose of construction of the holding pond, and after construction, the mangroves have degraded to a great extent,” the petition states, seeking demolition of the two holding ponds, restoration of mangroves and declaration of the area as protected forests.

Holding ponds are embankments built to protect against flooding by sea water. During the high tide, flap gates close owing to the water pressure from the creek, blocking the entry of water into the creeks and estuaries, but open during low tide allowing water to get discharged into the creek. The fishermen have pointed out two holding ponds that have destroyed the local mangrove ecosystem. One holding pond is located near Boripakhadi in Uran, which includes the 289-hectare Panje wetland and the second is in Dronagiri Node at the mouth of the estuary of Karanja Creek. Both fishing areas have witnessed 85% drop in catch, the petitions said, adding that 233-hectare area had already been given away for the Navi Mumbai Special Economic Zone (NMSEZ) to private companies.

HT reported on Wednesday that entire Panje wetland had dried up despite high tide water access, a site visit by environmentalists and Cidco officers revealed.

Cidco said there were no cases of deliberate mangrove or wetland destruction. “In some cases, during the construction of national or state highways or the coastal road, construction debris had blocked off tidal water across a few patches. We will be writing to the agencies to remove the debris by next week,” said Pramod Patil, nodal officer, environment and forest, Cidco. “In all other cases, efforts were carried out to restore sites. In some areas, mangroves are not present at all rendering those complaints baseless.”

The state said they will look at the allegations raised in the petition and by environmentalists. “I have directed the member secretary of the state wetland committee to study the issues raised and also inspect the areas mentioned. We will discuss the matter in our monthly meeting with the district administration, and submit relevant reports to the court,” said Jagdish Patil, Konkan commissioner and chairman of the state mangrove and wetland committees.

Day after HT report, district administration directs investigation

A day after HT reported that the Panje wetland had dried despite month long efforts to restore it, the district administration sent its officers for a site inspection after the member secretary of the state wetland committee reached out to them regarding the status of the wetland.

“Based on a newspaper report, we have asked the Raigad district administration to tell us what has been happening at the wetland. Cidco has told us that they are adhering to guidelines from the Konkan commissioner. Based on the report from the district administration, we will take follow-up action,” said JR Gowda, member secretary of the state wetland committee.

Meanwhile, five days after the state wetland committee said that a first information report (FIR) had been filed against officials from the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), the investigating officer from the forest department BD Gaikwad who had confirmed that 4,550 mangrove trees had dried due to high tide water blockages, was transferred from his post.

First Published: Nov 22, 2018 00:43 IST