Vasai resident gets 3 booked for razing 3,000 mangroves
A 33-year-old Vasai resident’s efforts over three months brought to the fore the destruction of nearly 3,000 mangrove trees in the area, leading to an FIR against three violators, one arrest and a penalty of ₹15 lakh. The Bombay high court (HC)-appointed state mangroves committee has decided to highlight the struggle as a case study for citizen-led protection of mangroves in Maharashtra.
The HC has ruled that the destruction of mangrove forests across the state and construction within 50 metres of mangrove areas is illegal.
In April, Sayanora Gonsalves, a playback singer and a resident of Sandor in Vasai, Palghar district, found a three-acre mangrove patch in the area had been destroyed to build an aquaculture farm. “During my visit to a paddy farm, I found two local residents had left the entire area barren using excavator machines and three tractors to develop an aquaculture farm,” said Gonsalves. She then approached the district revenue authority. “Mangroves had been openly hacked and in some cases, large amount of mud, provided by a third accused, was dumped around areas where high tide water had entered. What’s worse, the violators had placed a fake board with the state government’s symbol on it, claiming the work was being carried out with permission from the state fisheries department,” she said.
Over the next two weeks, Gonsalves filed two complaints with the revenue department. “However, a few revenue officials filed some false panchnamas, claiming no violations had happened. This was disheartening,” she said, adding that she received numerous “threat calls from unknown persons” during the process. After she saw no action was being taken, Gonsalves approached the Vasai sub-divisional officer (SDO). At the same time, she found that the violators had no permission for landfilling from the fisheries department. “When the matter was placed before the SDO, he inspected the area, and directed the tehsildar and police to file an FIR against the accused,” she said.
In the last week of June, Deepak Shirsagar, SDO, Vasai, said that based on Gonsalves‘s complaints, the Vasai tehsildar was directed to file a detailed report. “The tehsildar was asked to inform the police and take appropriate action for mangrove destruction. Dumping of 250 brass of mud was identified and a fine of ₹15 lakh was imposed on the three violators.”
Bhaskar Pukhle, inspector, Vasai police station, confirmed that the violators were booked under Environment Protection Act, 1986. “While one person was
arrested and later released on bail, another accused managed to get anticipatory bail. The third one is absconding. The matter will now be heard by the district court on July 9,” said Pukhle.
Members of the HC-appointed committee said if similar efforts were taken by citizens, there would be a drastic reduction in violations. “Rather than shouting on social media, she [Gonsalves] ensured that action was taken. We need more such citizens to come forward and help the committee,” said Stalin D, member of the committee.
Chandigarh Chandigarh administrator Banwarilal Purohit on Wednesday gave in-principle approval for a synthetic running track at Sukhna Lake. UT adviser Dharam Pal, said, “The Chandigarh Heritage Conservation Committee had earlier given its go-ahead for the proposal. Next, the detailed plan and cost estimates will be prepared; and then, tenders will be floated for the project.” A UT official said the proposed track is part of the administration's efforts to give Sukhna Lake a major facelift.
The National Highway Authority of India has approved two over-bridges, which are likely to reduce travel time between Kalka and Zirakpur and alleviate traffic jams on the stretch by next year. NHAI has already floated tenders for the 60-m wide over-bridges, which will be constructed at a cost of ₹50 crore. It has invited bids for the “construction and site improvement of the four-lane national highway (NH-22) on the Zirakpur-Parwanoo junction.”
Fifteen students had a narrow escape after their school bus skidded into a waterlogged open drain in Daulat Singhwala village in Phabat area of Zirakpur. The bus, which was ferrying students of Blue Bird High School, Sector 16, Panchkula, was making way for another school bus when it skidded into the overflowing drain. The bus tilted in the drain, but passersby and parents were able to rescue the children through the driver's window.
Tricity residents woke up to heavy rainfall for the second time this month on Wednesday. Three people went missing after a taxi, shuttling two commuters, was swept away in a flashflood in the Patiala-Ki-Rao rivulet as the driver attempted to cross the causeway in Tanda Village near Nayagaon. The owner of the vehicle, Rakesh Kumar told the police that Gaurav had called him saying two people, travelling to Baddi, had booked his cab.
Chandigarh received 97mm rainfall between 6am and 8.30am, the heaviest rain in July since 2017, as per the India Meteorological Department. It received another 0.9mm of rainfall during the day. The maximum precipitation till 8.30am was recorded at the Sector 39 observatory (97mm), 49.2mm rain was recorded at the airport observatory, 77.5mm rain in Panchkula and 74.5 mm rain in Mohali.