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‘We’re eco-friendly’: Army defence on Colaba debris dumping plaints

By Badri Chatterjee, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON NOV 26, 2019 12:57 AM IST

Following repeated complaints that Sagarmatha Club in Navy Nagar, Colaba, is illegally dumping debris to reclaim land, the Army has said the debris is intended to fortify the club against sea erosion. A police investigation, as well as a parallel probe by the mangrove cell into the debris dumping, is underway.

On November 19, environment group Conservation Action Trust (CAT) had filed a complaint with the Mumbai city district collector, state mangrove cell and Konkan commissioner, alleging debris from the Metro railway construction was being dumped on the shore near Sagarmatha Club, which is owned by the Indian Army. Photos of trucks carrying debris and boulders were attached to the complaint.

“Reclamation of mangroves is still ongoing despite repeated complaints and a first information report (FIR) being filed against the club,” said Debi Goenka, executive trustee, CAT.

HT visited the site on Monday and saw earth and boulders had been dumped along the club’s shore. However, there are also fresh mangrove saplings in the area that have been planted by the Army.

Mumbai City collector Shivaji Jondhale said, “Mumbai Police filed an FIR in May against the Army club. In spite of this, reclamation work has continued.” The FIR charges the club with violations of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, and Jondhale said an inspection report would be submitted “at the earliest”.

On Monday, the Army issued a letter to the forest department and district administration. An Army official shared an unsigned copy of the letter with HT. “It is reiterated that the Army as an organisation is not doing any such thing as reclamation. Prevention of flooding during monsoon and protection of defence land from being eroded is mandatory to ensure that there is no loss to life and government property in Colaba. During the actions taken, a healthy distance is being maintained from existing mangroves and it is assured that no construction in any form is being done and mangroves will not be harmed,” the letter read.

The officer said cyclones Vayu, Kyarr and Maha in October and November had necessitated measures to control flooding, which include getting boulders from Metro sites. “Prior to the cyclone impact, we had placed barrels, tyres, chain-link fences but none of these measures helped control flooding. We are also in talks with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to get tetrapods to be placed along the seaward end while 2,500 mangrove saplings have been planted by us.”

Meanwhile, Mumbai Police has begun investigating the case. “An offence case has been registered against the club,” said Sangramsinh Nishandar, deputy commissioner of police, zone 1.

Divisional assistant commissioner of police Subhash Khanvilkar said, “Based on the FIR, we are investigating the case for violations of the Environment Protection Act, 1986.”

Parallel to the police investigation, the mangrove cell sent a team to the site but it found no destruction of mangroves. “We are awaiting a detailed investigation report from our divisional forest officer for further clarity,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest (mangrove cell).

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