JNPT denies record of mangroves in port area, greens shocked

Deliberate attempt to landfill 900 hectares of sea forest

JNPT deliberately hides data to landfill 900 hectares of sea forest, greens tell Uddhav

NAVI MUMBAI: JNPT does not have any record of mangroves in its area!

This shocking revelation has come through a response to an application under the RTI filed by environment NGO NatConnect Foundation. The JNPT response, signed by R A Mhatre, Deputy Manager (PPD) and Public Information Officer, said “Details are not available”

In a related developments, the State Environment department has asked the Raigad District Coastal Zone Monitoring (DCZMC) to probe into the allegation of massive mangrove destruction by JNPT SEZ in Uran area in the absence of CRZ clearance, while the Mangrove Cell reminded the port management that it has to transfer mangroves under it to the Forest Department.

“We sought the information since JNPT has been delaying transfer of mangroves to the Forest Department despite the Bombay High Court order and the State government notice to all agencies to transfer mangroves for conserving them as reserved forests,” said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation. Kumar has filed his First Appeal under RTI against “misleading and wring information”.

The State Mangrove Cell has also reminded JNPT and CIDCO to initiate the process of transferring the sea forests under their respective jurisdiction, Virendra Tiwari, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, confirmed.

The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) has already confirmed in response to an RTI application by NGO NatConnect Foundation that JNPT SEZ does not have CRZ clearance for implementing the project. The Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) has given the environment clearance for the multi-product SEZ, but it does not mention a word about mangroves and wetlands, NatConnect pointed out.

In view of this, environmentalists have, in a series of mails, drawn the attention of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to the destruction of mangroves and wetlands across Uran by JNPT SEZ. The CM has asked the Environment Department to look into the issues. 

“Environment Director Narendra Toke has in turn has informed us that the complaints have been sent to the Raigad District Collector to be handled by the DCZMC,” Kumar said.

In the wake of the delaying tactics of JNPT and CIDCO, NatConnect has appealed to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Environment Minister Aditya Thackeray to intervene and force the handover process before more mangroves are destroyed.

Kumar recalled that JNPT’s website had a chapter ‘Environment Push’ under which the port declared that it has 913.6 hectares of mangroves frown in its area. But this reference has of late been mysteriously deleted. NGO Vanashakti, which filed a contempt petition in High Court, managed to preserved a screen shot of this statement.

JNPT website however says: “The total land available with JNPT is around 3402 hectares out of this, 1147 hectares area (34%) of the port is under green cover including mangroves.” This information was available as of June 8, Kumar said.

JNPT, whose environment record is dismal, is obviously trying to hide the mangrove data to destroy as much as possible and reclaim the land, said Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan. JNPT has already been penalized Rs one lakh for destroying 4,500 mangroves in its work on container terminal-4, Pawar said.

The government must now just take over the 900 odd hectares of mangroves from JNPT and force CIDCO to handover the seas plant stretches under its jurisdiction in Navi Mumbai, Pawar said.