Uran mangroves razed, say activists; Cidco unclear about source of debris
Environmentalists on Tuesday complained to the government that over 1,500 mangrove trees across five acres were found hacked just outside an industrial zone at Uran. They also claimed construction debris, illegally dumped at the site over the past few months, had resulted in the destruction of more than 60% of the 400-acre Pagote wetlands.
The complaint comes less than a week after the state mangroves committee, appointed by the Bombay high court (HC), issued directions to the Raigad district administration — under which the area comes — to check violations of environmental laws in their jurisdiction.
Activists from Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishthan (SEAP) visited the site on Monday and Tuesday, and submitted their findings with satellite photographs (see box) to various government agencies.
Nandkumar Pawar, head of SEAP, said that most of the mangrove destruction at the site happened while enforcement agencies were busy with the Lok Sabha elections.
“State agencies as landowners, have outsourced mangrove and wetland destruction activities to the debris mafia, and over the past two months the area has been decimated,” he alleged.
The City Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco), which holds a stake in the industrial zone, said illegal debris dumping was carried out by unidentified persons. “Private companies that have a stake in the industrial zone have not begun construction work. It is unclear where construction debris or mud is coming from,” said Pramod Patil, nodal officer, environment and forest, Cidco.
Responses obtained from the district administration earlier this month through right to information (RTI) queries revealed no permission was granted to state or private agencies to dump debris or reclaim any ecologically-sensitive areas in Uran.
“Debris dumping has been carried out without permission from the revenue department or district mining officer,” said Afroz Baig, Raigad assistant district mining officer. “We are awaiting directions from our district collector to initiate action.”
Environment clearances granted by the Union environment ministry to the industrial zone project proponents in 2006 stated that “mangroves and bird habitats in the peripheral areas cannot be destroyed, and Bombay HC orders and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms need to be followed”.
Vijay Suryavanshi, Raigad district collector, said directions were issued to investigate the allegations on Tuesday.
“Due to elections, we were not able to investigate the matter properly. However, our mining officers will take stock of all violations. Environmental destruction will not be tolerated, and offenders will be taken to task,” he said.
Destruction of mangroves is illegal under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
In a 2005 HC order, that was upheld in September 2018, destruction of mangrove forests across the state as well as construction within 50m of mangroves was banned.
“The area falls under the jurisdiction of the revenue department. We will be informing them about the offence as it is a serious violation of HC orders,” said Neenu Somraj, member secretary of the state mangrove committee.