Friday, September 22, 2023
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My Lord, Environment Dept Skips Mangrove Committee Meetings

Consistent Absence, says Committee Chairman

NatConnect Foundation

NatConnect director B N Kumar says wetland destruction goes unchecked as the HC committees do not meet.

NAVI MUMBAI: Upset with the continuous absence of the Environment Department at the High Court-appointed wetland and mangrove committee meetings, the panels’ chairman has decided to report it to the Court.

The meetings were held on Thursday for the first time after July last year and in the wake of protests by environmentalists such as NatConnect Foundation and complaints to the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary.

Presiding over the much-delayed meetings on Thursday, Konkan divisional commissioner Dr Mahendra Kalyankar noted the “consistence absence” of the all important environment department and said  he would report to the High Court.

Conforming this, Stalin D, member of both the committees, said it is a serious issue that the environment department officials skipped the meeting, which is very relevant to them.

In fact, even at the last meeting held in July last year the officials from the environment, MCZMA, MMRDA were absent, the minutes show. The then Chairman Vilas Patil had even expressed his anger at the absence and said this causes hurdles in addressing and redressing the complaints about wetland and mangrove destruction.

Dr Kalyankar who held his first meeting as the Chairman also directed the district officials to try and sort out the complaints at their level and extend full cooperation to the NGOs.

NatConnect director B N Kumar, who threatened contempt proceedings at the irregular conduct of the Committees meetings, expressed satisfaction that the Divisional Commissioner finally convened the sessions. “We hope the committees will meet frequently and take steps to protect the environment,” he said.

The Chairman also stressed that CIDCO must depute senior officials who can take decisions and respond to complaints. CIDCO nodal officers attend the meetings and the meeting minutes show that most of the responses from the planning agency are still pending.

Meanwhile, the wetland committee directed CIDCO to have all encroachments at the NRI wetland at Nerul removed and that the inter-tidal water flow be kept uninterrupted. There have been complaints that the tidal water flow is often blocked.

Stalin also pointed out all mangroves under the jurisdiction of agencies such as CIDCO must immediately be handed over to the Forest Department.

NatConnect, quoting the mangrove conservation unit, hjad earlier reported that as many as 1600 hectares of tidal plants are still pending transfer.

Kharghar-based activist Jyoti Nadkarni said the complaints regarding mangrove and wetland destruction in the node are yet to be addressed by the committees.

Uran requires special attention as the wetlands and mangroves in the area are under constant attack, according to Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan.