In January this year, over 10 truckloads of debris were illegally dumped over the mangroves and water inlets near Mahul Creek, leading to depletion of the vegetation.
The vacant piece of land left behind as a result, is now being used by BMC to park vehicles seized from the city. The police are yet to ascertain who is behind the dumping. A senior official with the RCF police station said on condition of anonymity, “Not much headway has been made in the matter as no names have surfaced. There is a dargah in the vicinity and no one is telling us who is dumping the debris.
A company questioned in this regard said that the MMRDA had given it permission to dispose rubble there, but the authority is in denial. The person from the firm however added that cars are now being parked on the vacant patch.
This reporter visited the spot near Mumbai Port Trust Road at Mahul near the MHADA-MMRDA colonies, and was greeted by lush green mangroves on both sides of the road and a dargah at one end. Adjacent to the dargah, was a barren patch of land cordoned off by tin sheets. “When any government authority puts up tin sheets around an area, then we should realise there is something wrong. The mangroves have been killed off and now cars, which have been seized, are parked here by BMC and the police. Water is unable to reach the mangroves through a drain, as it was blocked with rubble and the vegetation eventually died. The spot has now been covered by a layer of rubble and mud,” environmentalist Stalin D said. He questioned if the civic body, under the name of Brihanmumbai Stormwater Disposal System (BRIMSTOWAD), is widening the nullahs for passage of storm water, then why is it building high walls that block the passage of water? “They should just widen them. A petition has been filed in court against the hacking of mangroves; the hearing is next week,” said Stalin.
People managing the dargah say they have been complaining to BMC, police and the collector about the illegal dumping, as well as drain water now entering their premises, but in vain.
Jamal Hussain Khan, president of the trust, said, “We complained about the dumping, but nothing was done. Then we dissented about the blockage of water flow, but that also fell on deaf ears. Now the authorities are inactive about the drain water that is seeping into our site.”
He added that seven months after the illegal dumping occurred, the authorities are yet to take any action whatsoever.
He said that the police are now blaming them for destroying the mangroves.
Murad Mastan, a local activist, said, “We were told dumping was being done with MMRDA permission, but the latter denies this. The dargah has been here since 45 years and all the while there were only mangroves in the area.”
Dilip Kawatkar, joint project director, MMRDA, denied any mangroves were hacked by them. “We have not cut a single piece of mangrove and the collector has handed over the area to us for protection. So we have put up tin sheets to safeguard it from encroachment and cutting. I don’t know about the cars and no one is allowed to enter the place.”
BMC’s deputy municipal commissioner (removal of encroachment) V Balamwar, said, “We have been parking abandoned cars there as the plot belongs to BMC’s estate department.”
Dilip Yadav, senior inspector of RCF police station said, “The matter is being investigated and a case has been registered under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning (MR&TP) Act.
Suburban collector Nirmal Deshmukh was unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts to contact him.
‘Govt not serious’
Environmentalist Debi Goenka said, “Whatever land is left in the city is getting usurped by builders. Primarily the government should provide infrastructure and only then should the builders get these lands. But it is the other way around here. We cannot blame only the developers, as it is the government agencies, which want to destroy the greens and open up spaces for roads, rehabilitation, freeways, etc. So, when they aren’t serious about the issue themselves, who would protect the mangroves? Mangroves are the lungs and kidneys of the environment, which flush out the pollution and enrich marine life. When these are destroyed, even the fishing sector of Mumbai would be affected.”