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File contempt cases against mangrove ‘killers’, say greens

NAVI MUMBAI: Perturbed by the large scale violation of Bombay High Court orders to protect mangroves and wetlands, environment activists have called for contempt cases against the culprits and setting up of ‘Green Police’.

In a fresh missive to the High Court appointed Mangrove Monitoring Committee, environment focused groups fighting for the cause, have urged the panel chairman Jagdish Patil to initiate the contempt of court proceedings and support the cause for an independent Green Police machinery to tackle environment law violations.

“The committee’s instructions to stop killing mangroves and halt reclamation of wetlands have so far been thrown in dust bins as the experience shows,” activist B N Kumar, director of The Nature Connect, pointed out.

“It is shocking that JNPT and NHAI seem to care two hoots for the High Court committee and their violations are too glaring to be missed by naked eye,” lamented Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishtan. Going by media reports, the two agencies are always in a denial mode, he said.

While the groups are working on filing cases, the Jagdish Patil committee could also bring the violators to the book, the latest e-mail to him said.

The mail was also copied to the Prime Minister, Union Shipping and Highways Minister and the Maharashtra Chief Minister.

“CM Devendra Fadnavis  had earlier referred our mail regarding the wetland destruction by JNPT to the state’s port department. He had also referred to the Home Ministry the suggestion for Green Police, “said Kumar.

The existing police machinery is already hard pressed and hence a separate force is a must. “Crimes against nature require focused approach just as the crimes against humans,” Pawar said.

JNPT has been accused of ignoring the HC Committee order and going ahead with burying the 400-acre Dastan Phata wetland. The port body has earlier been fined Rs one lakh for killing 4500 mangroves that has been officially confirmed by the Forest Department.

NHAI’s road and bridge expansion on NH-348 has led to the death of another 4,500 mangroves and this has been confirmed by the revenue-first joint inspection done at the instance of HC appointed panel. CIDCO environment officer Pramod Patil said the blockage of sea water flow to mangroves will be lifted. Yet, no action has been taken as of Friday evening.

What is more, the landfill in NMSEZ plots has led to the tidal water entering homes in Uran villages. CIDCO environment officer Pramod Patil and Uran tehsildar Kalpana Gode inspected the plots and promised corrective measures.

Fishermen activists Tukaram and Dilip Koli of Paaramparik Machhimar Bachav Kruti Samiti wondered if they are fighting a losing battle as the community has lost the sole source of income due to the landfills.