NATCONNECT IMPACT: CM steps in as Uran mangrove zones turn into deserts

Responds to greens outcry against ‘reckless landfill’

The project sites of JNPT SEZ or Navi Mumbai SEZ are no more mangrove zones, said B N Kumar, director of NatCoinnect Foundation

NAVI MUMBAI: Promptly responding to complaints from environmentalists that Uran mangrove zones and wetlands have been turned into deserts that can be ideal outdoor locale for Bollywood film shoots, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray asked the Urban Development department to take action.

“With the inordinate delay in notifying the mangrove stretches as reserve forests, despite the government orders, thousands of sea plants are being buried with truckloads of earth and debris and Bollywood producers might as well make use of the man-made deserts for their shoots,” said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation, in his missive to the CM.

The CMO has asked Mahesh Pathak, Principal Secretary – UD-2, to look into the issue and “we received an e-mail to this affect,” Kumar said

In its tongue-in-cheek letter, also marked to the IMPPA (Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association), NatConnect said the film makers now do not have to go as far as Dubai or Rajasthan for shooting on desert sites. They are welcome to Uran across Mumbai harbour, he said.

The forest department has just notified over 916.22 hectares of mangroves in Borivali taluka of Mumbai Suburban district covering Gorai, Manori, Charkop, Marve and Aksa, but the Navi Mumbai mangroves continued to face wrath of the landgrab.

“This is no exaggeration that innumerable complaints to the government and the orders from environment department and even the high court appointed wetlands and mangroves committees have not yielded any results to save the mangroves in Uran and many other parts of Navi Mumbai such as Kharghar, Ulwe, Vashi and Belapue,” Kumar regretted.

The rampant destruction goes on unchecked across the city.

One feels sad that the High Court appointed committees, with all powers at their command, remained mute witnessed to the environment destruction and failed to implement their own orders, said Stalin D of NGO Vanshakti.

Obviously, the IAS officers who head CIDCO and JNPT are much more powerful than the Konkan Divisional Commissioner who heads the mangrove and wetlands committees, Stalin, who is also on the HC committee, said.

The project sites of JNPT SEZ or Navi Mumbai SEZ are no more mangrove zones. The landfill over the last three years have rendered these into deserts with not a single blade of grass in sight, Kumar said.

CIDCO, which has all along been neglecting environment, might as well be the nodal agency for booking film shoot sites, said Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan. He recalled that blockbusters as Rangeela were shot at Navi Mumbai railway stations and construction sites.

Destruction of environment and profit booking at any cost has been the CIDCO motto for some years now, Pawar pointed out and said the so-called city planner might as well look for additional source of income from film shoot sites in Uran.

CIDCO is a 26% stake holder in NMSEZ and has allotted mangrove zones and wetlands to various project proponents. CIDCO has even leased out the Panje holding pond, supposedly part of a flood control mechanism, to NMSEZ. The planner has now gobbled up the holding pond and earmarked as sector 16 to 28 in the upcoming Dronagiri Development Plan, without any Costal Zone clearance, Kumar said.

Once the construction starts at Panje - the once flourishing destination for over 1,50,000 birds – the sites can be used for fight sequences by Bollywood producers and directors, Kumar said.

The reckless, unchecked landfill has already been causing unseasonal floods and film makers might as well use these sites for flood related shots, he said sarcastically.

The last Lok Sabha election time had given a golden opportunity to land grabbers as they dumped hundreds of truckloads of earth and debris on NMSEZ sites at mangroves at Pagote and wetland at Bhendkhal. The Mangrove committee has ordered CIDCO and NMSEZ to restore of these mangroves and wetland. Yet nothing has changed as these orders have been thrown to winds Kumar regretted.