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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Walls along Oshiwara river will destroy greenery in Aarey colony: Mumbai NGO

The site mentioned is the same spot where a bridge collapsed during monsoon in September last year

mumbai Updated: Apr 10, 2018 10:11 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
BMC, which is building the wall, said it is carrying out ‘beautification work’ that will not affect the river’s natural flow.
BMC, which is building the wall, said it is carrying out ‘beautification work’ that will not affect the river’s natural flow. (HT Photo )
         

An environmental group has opposed the construction of walls along the Oshiwara river, saying the concrete will deprive green areas of Aarey Milk Colony of water.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which is building the wall, said it is carrying out ‘beautification work’ that will not affect the river’s natural flow. The site mentioned is the same spot where a bridge collapsed during monsoon in September last year.

In a complaint filed with various state government bodies on Monday, NGO Vanashakti alleged that the river, which originates in Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and flows westwards through Aarey towards Malad Creek, was being destroyed near the Goregaon exit of Aarey.

“We are shocked to see massive walls being built on both sides of a river inside a forest on government land,” said Stalin D, project director, NGO Vanashakti. “On the upper stretches of the river, a private developer has already damaged some of the water channels and despite complaints no action has been taken. In this case, BMC was filling mud and debris on the river bed as well and attempting to dry out the forest area and kill the trees.”

HT had reported on September 21, 2016 that owing to the construction of a retaining wall along the Mithi river at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), Bandra (East), by Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA), satellite images had revealed that the mangrove trees had started drying out along wetland patches of the river. The issue of the walls along Mithi is sub judice and currently being heard before the Supreme Court.

Officials from BMC’s storm water drains (SWD) department said a 20-metre wall was being constructed and only 3-feet area of the river bed would be concretised. “As per BMC’s mandate, we are carrying out beautification work across all four rivers – Mithi, Oshiwara, Dahisar and Poisar. This work will in no way block the natural flow of the river, and the green cover will not be affected. We have all permissions in place. The work is being done to ensure that flooding doesn’t take place this monsoon,” said Ahir Rao, assistant engineer, SWD department, P-South ward.

Environmentalists have questioned the need for a wall along a river inside a forest. Stalin said there is a status quo by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on carrying out any work in Aarey. “There are hardly any human settlements inside this site of Aarey and if any have never faced any issues of flooding or damage. But with the extensive reclamation and concretisation will lead to severe environmental damage.”

Meanwhile, Aarey officials said BMC had all permissions for the construction from their side. “A cemetery has been planned to be constructed further up the river, and the Bombay High Court has ordered the removal of sewage water from site, and therefore this construction is being carried out. It will not affect the green cover of the area,” said Nathu Rathod, chief executive officer, Aarey.

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THE LAW

A 2001 Supreme Court order stated that natural resources like forests, tanks, ponds, hillocks, and mountains are important for maintaining the ecological balance and needs to be protected. It also stated that if fallen to disuse, these sites cannot be used for building houses and authorities are “duty bound” to clean and develop them to prevent an ecological disaster. Also enables people to enjoy a quality of life.

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WHAT THE COMPLAINT SAYS

India is rapidly moving towards a depleting surface and groundwater deficit with each passing year. If rivers are concretised all source of potable water will be destroyed forever. The forests of Aarey are closely linked with both Mithi and Oshiwara rivers and are interdependent on each other for their survival, read the complaint that attached pictures and satellite images of the site (see pic).

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WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Water bodies such as rivers, lakes, ponds or tanks stabilize the coastline, control erosion and provide habitat for plant and animal species, prevent floods and purify and increase the groundwater level during monsoons. The also regulate climate change by storing carbon. Besides, they also contribute to the country’s economy by providing fishery resources, timber, wildlife resources, medicines and agricultural products.

First Published: Apr 10, 2018 10:11 IST