Draw attention to wanton destruction of mangroves, wetlands, hills and forests
MUMBAI: Focusing on all round destruction of environment in the name of development, environmentalists have dashed out an SOS to Maharashtra’s new Environment Minister Aditya Thackeray calling for his immediate intervention and expedite the setting up of a dedicated Green Police.
With a plea to save the City’s mangroves, wetlands, salt pans, forests and hills, the environment focused NGOs – NatConnect Foundation and Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan (SEAP) – have urged the junior Thackeray to fulfil his pre-poll promise to declare Aarey greenery as forest and transfer it to the Forest Department. They also asked him to ensure that the Metro Carshed is moved to an alternative location from Aarey and compensatory planting in lieu of the hacked trees.
“There has been a wanton destruction of mangroves and wetlands all across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). The ecologically sensitive Uran has borne the brunt of the brutal attack by various project proponents such as Navi Mumbai SEZ, JNPT, JNPT SEZ , NHAI etc., Over 15,000 mangroves have been destroyed at JNPT 4th Container terminal, NH-348 (near Punjab warehouses CFS) and NMSEZ’s Pagote site. Wetlands of as much as 100 acres at Pagote and 150 acres at Bhelkhand – both under NMSEZ - have been destroyed by illegal landfill” said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foudation.
The groups floated a petition on change.org and posted across social media, apart from tweeting it to Aditya Thackeray.
“Much of Uran, supposed to be the largest coastal wetlands of Maharashtra, has been turned into a mere dust bowl. Local fishing community and 26 villages are paying price for relentless development that is destroying the ecological balance. Fishermen’s livelihood and their lives are under threat,” said Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan.
Pointing out that the existing police force is not equipped to handle environmental crimes, the groups requested the Minister to expeditiously set up a Green Police for this. “Our earlier proposal sent to then CM Devendra Fadnavis is pending with the Home department,” Kumar said.
Referring to illegal landfills in Uran, Pawar said “official response to our RTI applications show very clearly that NMSEZ or its contractors have not taken any permission nor have they paid royalty for digging hills for transporting hundreds of truckloads of soil. At Panje, NMSEZ illegally constructed a massive wall around over 500 acres and even prevented bird watchers and fishermen from entering.”
CIDCO also leased out Pagote wetland to NMSEZ. Ironically, CIDCO is 26% shareholder in NMSEZ and hence cannot escape responsibility. Moreover, CIDCO has just drawn a development plan for Dronagiri which will badly impact thousands mangroves and hundreds of acres of wetlands and even salt pan plots, Kumar pointed out.
The green groups hailed the halting of further quarrying of Parsik Hills in Navi Mumbai, but opposed CIDCO’s plans to develop housing complexes along the forest land. Quarrying of Parsik Hills in Navi Mumbai has crossed all limits allotted to the contractors. The blasting of the hills has stopped following an NGT order but CIDCO was still trying to reopen the issue. “Following our suggestions to declare Parsik Hill quarry sites as protected areas, Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) panned to build to develop the quarry sites as an Environment project,” said Kumar and requested Thackeray to ensure that this is done.
The NGOs describe MMRDA plan to build housing complexes in salt pan areas as a “disastrous plan” and “invitation to environmental crisis “We request your government to take a comprehensive look at the various projects that hamper environment and bring disaster to the people. The River Regulatory Zone, for instance, has to be revived to save the rivers and the people, to prevent recurring floods,” Pawar said.
The NGOs sought an early meeting with the Minister to discuss all these issues.