Though mangrove forests act as natural barriers against storms and as a habitat for various flora and fauna, from the rate at which these forests in the city and Navi Mumbai are falling prey to illegal dumping of debris and encroachment, it appears that authorities are not doing enough to save this crucial ecosystem.
Despite official action, a significant loss in mangrove cover was observed in places like Dahisar, Borivli, Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) and Airoli.
Borivli-Dahisar Link Road
Several spots on this stretch, which once had thicket of mangrove trees, have become barren. Also, illegal construction and parking of private vehicles and tourist buses have taken a toll on the green cover. Adding to the misery is the dumping of construction debris. At some locations, paver block manufacturing units have been set up.
Activist and member of New Link Road Residents Forum Harish Pande said, “We had written to the local BMC ward office, municipal commissioner, collector, forest department and MCZMA on numerous occasions in the past, but it seems that our complaints fell on deaf ears. If construction in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) continues then soon we would lose the important mangroves cover, which is not only crucial for the city but is also home to migratory birds.”
Even this stretch was marred by similar problems — illegal dumping and rampant construction in the CRZ. Surprisingly, all houses constructed on the mangrove land had electricity and water supply.
Dharma Nagar (Borivli West)
Despite falling under CRZ, a paver block manufacturing unit was set up on mangrove land.
On visiting the plot adjacent to the service road from BKC towards Bandra Government Colony, it was observed the construction of shanties on mangrove land had recommenced and was on in full swing.
In April, MiD DAY had reported on how illegal dumping of construction debris on collector land near BKC was killing the mangrove forest (Nighttime debris attack on BKC mangrove hub, April 26).
Soon after the story was published, officials from the Suburban Collector Office swung into action and ordered clearing of debris. While the rubble was cleared, the issue of encroachment remains unresolved till date.
Around 20 days ago, the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd (CIDCO) anti-encroachment department took steps to curb illegal dumping of debris in a water body at Sector 28 and registered a case against two truck drivers at Nerul police station. Both the drivers were fined a small amount.
The action was initiated after locals kept the heat on the officials to do the needful. The locals now complain that activity has resumed and at least a couple of trucks were dumping rubble near the water body early morning for the past few days.
Sources said most of the buildings in the newly developed part of Ghansoli node were built on mangrove land. Though the forest department had demarcated the mangrove area, dumping of construction debris was seen at several locations. Also, truckload of debris was found dumped in Gunani lake.
The issue of dumping of debris in a lake near NRI Complex had recently come to the fore after the locals held a rally to protest attempts to build a hotel on the lake by reclaiming it. While the protest produced the desired effect — a ban on dumping of debris in the lake — no efforts were made by the authorities to clear the rubble as a result of which, the lake has become an eyesore.
Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Zone VII) Bharat Marathe, under whose jurisdiction Dahisar and Borivli fall, said, “I want those complaint letters to be forwarded to me. I will do the inspection personally and resolve the issue.”
When contacted, officials from the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) and CIDCO passed the buck onto each other.
Madhukar Sapre of NMMC’s anti-encroachment department said, “We do not have enough manpower to keep a 24x7 check on illegal dumping of debris in mangrove forests, but still we try our best. Also, a vast part of the city falls under CIDCO’s jurisdiction and they are yet to transfer several plots to us. So it’s their responsibility as well to stop illegal dumping in their jurisdiction.”
CIDCO Chief Controller of unauthorised construction Anil Patil said, “We are sending three to four notices to unauthorised constructions everyday and managed to stop illegal dumping. However, we will increase our vigilance and take strict action against the guilty.”