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Wetland inside Mumbai’s Kanjurmarg dump yard is being reclaimed, claims NGO

Garbage is also leaking leachate into Thane creek, endangering marine life

mumbai Updated: Mar 03, 2018 13:52 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Mumbai news,wetland
Dumper trucks detained at Kanjurmarg for dumping mud at dumpyard.(HT Photo)

Illegal dumping of mud to reclaim a water body, and dumping of open garbage inside the Kanjurmarg dumping ground, is leaking leachate (liquid by-product when waste gets decomposed) into the Thane creek - Mumbai’s flamingo sanctuary, alleged a city-based environmental group.

What is leachate?
  • The dark liquid produced when solid waste gets decomposed along with rainwater penetration leaches into the soil and can contaminate ground water – a source of drinking water – and surface water.

Along with satellite images, photographs and video evidence of the leachate entering the creek, the environment watchdogs alleged that the water body has been completely destroyed through dumping mud, which is not allowed under solid waste management rules, wetland rules, and Bombay High Court orders. NGO Vanashakti filed a complaint with the state environment department and state pollution control board on Wednesday.

“The illegal dumping of mud has happened over 40 hectares, and more than 200 trucks are doing this on a daily basis for the past one year. The site is emanating foul odour through the night and early morning due to unsegregated waste, and the stench is being felt by visitors during boat rides at the flamingo sanctuary. The dumping area has increased in size and the garbage is inching closer to the creeks, which is both a destroying the water body and mangroves at this wetland area,” said Stalin D, director, NGO Vanashakti. “The leachate is being leaked clandestinely into the creek, which has already affected the marine life and fish catch for the local fishing community.”

Natural wetlands comprise creeks, estuaries, marshes, riverbanks, seashores, backwaters, and coral reefs. Man-made lakes, saltpans, reservoirs, abandoned quarries and dams are also considered as wetlands. Wetland destruction in the state was banned by the Bombay high court (HC) in 2012.

Satellite image of the Kanjurmarg dumping ground in 2016.
In a recent satellite image of the dumping ground, it can be seen that a large part of the water body has been reclaimed

While witnessing the beauty of flamingos at the Thane creek during boat rides, visitors have complained of foul stench from the creek. “As soon as the boat comes within 100 metres of the dumping ground, thick mangrove cover is unable to contain the foul smell in the area, and it is unbearable to sit through the journey. Not to mention, no wetland birds were spotted along the stretch aligning the dumping ground as the water seems to be toxic,” said Bhuwanesh Pal, Mulund resident who visited the flamingo sanctuary on Wednesday.

Following Stalin’s complaint, the district administration detained 10 dumper trucks from the site. “Prima facie, this is a violation. However, we are currently investigating the matter and more details will be clear only by Monday. The dumpers have been detained by the local police and will be kept there until the collector issues an order,” said a circle officer investigating the matter, who wished to remain anonymous until the order is passed.

Meanwhile, civic officials refuted all complaints made by the NGO. “The waterbody, mangroves and the entire wetland patch is well protected by us, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), and the state forest department. Apart from waste to the tune of less than 3,000kg is going to the dumping ground is being scientifically treated, so there is no question of foul odour either,” said Minesh Pimple, deputy chief engineer, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) solid waste management department. “The matter is in court so there is no need for these false allegations. Our contractor is doing a good job to treat waste and protect the surrounding environment at Kanjurmarg.”

While MPCB officials said they were going to conduct a site visit on Monday, the forest department said they would initiate action on receiving a complaint. “We are glad that the revenue department is already looking into the problem. However, if mangroves are being destroyed or tourists are being affected at the flamingo sanctuary, we will carry out an independent investigation in the matter,” said JR Gowda, member secretary of the Bombay HC appointed committee wetland grievance committee.

MMRC also dumping metro construction muck at Kanjur: NGO

The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) is dumping muck from metro constructions at Cuffe Parade at the Kanjurmarg dumping ground, in violation of their own project report where they committed to dump mud from construction at least 100kms away from Mumbai, alleged NGO Vanashakti after they caught four trucks dumping muck at the site and informed the district administration.

“The driver of the truck said he drove the vehicles from a metro construction site at Cuffe Parade, and had documents attested by MMRC. We will validate his statements after contacting MMRC,” said the circle officer investigating the matter.

MMRC refused to comment to HT’s queries regarding the issue.

Not the first time waste has entered Thane creek

HT had reported on August 1, 2017 that sewage flowing in from the Kanjurmarg dumping ground had led to a 90% drop in fish species in the Thane creek; fishermen from the region had told the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Fish species such as – catfish, tilapia and shrimp – were the only three ones remaining in the area, and the spotted scat fish, barramundi, goldbanded jobfish, all crab species, oysters, clams and many other species had gone missing from the creek, the fishing group had said. Apart from marine life 1,630 hectare creek area is home to thousands of migratory birds including flamingos and waders.

First Published: Mar 03, 2018 13:52 IST