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Maha CM steps in to check massive mangroves

MUMBAI: Responding to environment groups’ SOS that 5,000 hectares of mangrove and wetland area is being destroyed in Uran in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) due to unchecked, reckless landfill, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has asked Environment Ministry to take action.

“Much time has been lost as the environment monitoring officials were busy with the Lok Sabha elections and even after the poll, there seems to be no check on the landfill by JNPT and NMSEZ,” the environment-focused groups The Nature Connect ad Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishtan (SEAP) and the fishermen’s body Paarampaarik Machhimar Bachao Kruti Samiti (PMBKS) have said and asked: “who will be responsible for the impending crisis.”

“And, it will be too late to act for the Bombay High Court appointed mangrove committee which seems to be waiting for the election duties to be over and permanent damage to the mangroves and wetlands would have been done within the next few weeks,” they said.

Relentlessly continuing their series of communiqués to the Chief Minister, the activists made a fervent appeal not to refer this complaint to any other department or officer, but personally look into it as all government departments have individually and collectively failed to save mangroves and wetlands in Mumbai Metropolitan region (MMR).

“We received a reply from Mr Fadnavis that the Principal Secretary in Environment Department Anil Diggikar for further action,” said activist B N Kumar, director of The Nature Connect.

“Our pleas might sound repetitive but the danger is real as wetland after wetland and mangroves after mangroves are being mercilessly buried with absolutely no check,” said Kumar.

Despite the Mangrove Monitoring Committee head himself promising action, the ground situation continues to deteriorate which is nothing short of shocking, he regretted. “Shed a tear today, for you may not be able to cry tomorrow when Uran will face floods,” he remarked.

“JNPT SEZ (2240 hectares) and NMSEZ (1250 hectares) are continuously destroying the mangroves and wetlands either by directly dumping hundreds of truckloads of soil and debris or by blocking free flow of the creek water at several places, “ said Nandakumar Pawar, head of SEAP. “This is direct violation of the Bombay High Court orders to protect mangroves and wetlands, he said and pointed out: “Neither NMSEZ nor JNPT has permissions for the landfill or excavation.”

The authorities such as MCZMA, CIDCO or the Raigad district magistrate have not responded to our RTI applications filed four months ago which shows that the government has nothing to say on the permissions given, Pawar said. CIDCO on its own is hell bent on destroying 1638 hectares.

The fresh mail to the authorities pointed out that the eco-sensitive areas in Pagote and Kunde villages will be extinct any day as NMSEZ is dumping truckloads of soil and debris on water bodies and mangroves showing scant respect for the nature. JNPT, on the other hand, is continuing its operation, as if with vengeance, after finishing the 400-acre Dastan Phata wetland.

Nature on the one hand and the local fishermen on the other have fallen victim to the destruction, the mail pointed out.

“The various permissions given to the infrastructure projects clearly stipulate that the local people’s livelihood should be affected. But here in Uran no one seems to care for the rule of law,” Tukaram Koli of the fishermen’s group said. “We have been running from pillar to post for justice and we are being taken for granted as our peaceful protests are peaceful without causing any disturbance to public life or functioning of the government departments or private agencies,” another fishermen group activist Dilip Koli said.

The permissions given to JNPT SEZ clearly say that the project proponent has to adhere to the local environment rules that might be amended from time to time and be bound by the various court rulings. “But the project proponents show scant respect for the law,” Pawar added.