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God Save Our Mangroves

Greens’ concern amid CRZ ‘violations’ for temple

NatConnect Foundation

MCZMA meeting was held on May 23 and the notice for the single agenda meeting (number 167) was given on the same day

NAVI MUMBAI, June 6 (The CONNECT) - God save the environment, said exasperated activists their concerns of CRZ violations in the allocation of a 10-acre plot for the Tirupati Balaji temple have fallen on deaf ears.

“Right from the last August when the foundation for the temple was planned, we have been screaming that the plot is part of the casting yard for the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link’s casting yard which itself had come up on mangroves and intertidal wetlands, clear CRZ1 areas,” NatConnect Foundation director B N Kumar said.

Sadly though, the bhumi puja on mangrove zone was performed within 48 hours of the Prime Minister launching his favourite MISHTI - Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes – under which 75 coastal places are being covered, Kumar said.

“Mishti means sweet in Bengali and this is no certainty the good news either the environment or the local fishing community which thrives on mangroves and wetlands,” he said in his fresh missive to the Centre.

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) had in response to the NatConnect complaint asked the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority to study the complaints and report. The Chief Minister himself responded at least four times on a series of complaints and asked environment principal secretary Pravin Darade to look into the complaints.

Yet, Kumar pointed out, the CRZ nod was given for the temple project in a hurriedly convened MCZMA meeting on May 23. The notice for the single agenda meeting (number 167) was given on the same day and “our understanding that some key people concerned with the environment skipped it,” he argued.

Time and again, we have pointed out that we have no objection at all to the temple, but the environment must be respected as preached by our scriptures and as the slogans at Tirupati itself say so, Kumar said.

Concurring with NatConnect, Nandakumar Pawar of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan said that the plot allotment for the temple and of course the casting yard kitself, also casue human rights violations.

The local fishing community used to go to the sea from the same stretch where the casting yard had come up after burying mangroves and wetlands, Pawar said.

The community’s which was barred from entering the area hoped to get justice at least after the MTHL work is done. But now, they were all in for a rude shock since they will not be go for fishing from this area, he said.

More than the temple, the other logistics and infrastructure that is bound to be built here would render the entire coast inaccessible for the fishing community, Pawar said.

The casting yard must be cleared of all landfill and the intertidal water flow be allowed to be resumed for the rejuvenation of mangroves which grown on their own, Kumar and Pawar said.