MUMBAI: Halting the Navi Mumbai SEZ and CIDCO's planned development at Panje wetland in Uran across Mumbai harbour, Maharashtra Environment Minister Aditya Thackeray has ordered stoppage of all construction at the site.
Following a series of complaints from environment groups such as NatConnect Foundation, junior Thackeray held a meeting with his ministry officials to take stock of the situation earlier this month and directed that "all on-going activity should be stopped immediately."
NatConnect director B N Kumar obtained this information in response to his RTI application seeking to know if CIDCO obtained environmental clearance from the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Development Authority (MCZMA) while drawing the Development Plan (DP) for the upcoming Dronagiri node.
The response, signed by Narendra Toke, director environment and member secretary MCZMA, took note of the "repeated complaints against destruction of mangroves and dumping of debris" and directed the Raigad District Collector to ensure that no development activity takes place at Panje.
"We are happy that the Minister has acted," Kumar said. "We shall, however, for step vigil by our on-field volunteers against dumping of debris at Panje and other eco-sensitive areas as the unscrupulous elements are bound to dump truckloads of soil and debris on the wetlands and mangroves again, taking advantage of the absence of officials who are busy on coronavirus care duty," Kumar said.
Landfill on NMSEZ areas has been done literally on a war footing during the last Lok Sabha poll period when the officials were away on election duties for about three months, he recalled. This also followed the signing of an MoU between Reliance Industries Limited and NMSEZ for development of an integrated Industrial Township, Kumar said quoting regulatory filings.
CIDCO has openly admitted that the Bhendkhal wetland has been handed over to Reliance when the Wetland Committee asked the corporation to remove debris and restore the waterbody.
"We have been raising concern at frequent blocking of high tide water flow to Panje, thus making it dry apparently to facilitate construction, despite the High Court appointed Wetland and Mangrove Committees’ orders to CIDCO to ensure preservation of the wetland," said Kumar.