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Debris is slow poison for mangroves

In the past seven months, 30 complaints have been filed with the divisional commissioner, Konkan division, relating to destruction and degradation of mangroves in Mumbai and Thane.

mumbai Updated: Aug 03, 2012 01:41 IST
Nikhil M Ghanekar
Nikhil M Ghanekar
Hindustan Times

In the past seven months, 30 complaints have been filed with the divisional commissioner, Konkan division, relating to destruction and degradation of mangroves in Mumbai and Thane.

Around 50% of these complaints filed till July were reported from the western suburbs, while the rest were from eastern suburbs, the island city and Thane district. This data was accessed from the monthly reports submitted to the Bombay high court by the state government on action taken on complaints regarding destruction of mangroves.

Mangroves are crucial to a coastal city such as Mumbai as they act as a buffer against erosion of the coast and as a sponge to prevent flooding of the city. They also form the breeding ground for marine life.

The Bombay high court (HC) through its order dated October 6, 2005 had declared mangroves as protected forest. Regardless of ownership of the land it had banned any construction activity within 50 metres on all sides of all mangroves.

The data from the monthly reports is also backed by the preliminary assessment of the mangrove cell. According to N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests, mangrove cell, the expansive mangrove cover in the western suburbs is the worst affected owing to encroachments and lack of stringent penalty under the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

"Mangroves in the western suburbs are under constant threat due to encroachments by real estate developers, illegal hutments and also dumping of debris. Dumping of debris and blocking of tidal water acts as slow poison, killing the mangroves over time," said Vasudevan.

"For causing damage to mangroves on private land, the imprisonment under Forest Conservation Act is just 15 days, which does not serve as a deterrent.

Even the civic officials can take action against offenders under the Mumbai Regional Town Planning (MRTP) Act, but ironically, forest officials are not equipped to penalise them heavily," Vasudevan added.

The most brazen violations of the 2005 HC order have been witnessed in Charkop, said environmentalists and forest officials. In this year alone, seven complaints related to encroachments and destruction have been reported from Charkop. The government authorities have been unable to indict anyone in these cases.

"People have spent their hard-earned money to buy flats in buildings built 50 m away from mangroves, clearly flouting the 2005 HC order," said Regi Abraham, a civic activist from Charkop.

First Published: Aug 03, 2012 01:40 IST