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'Gandhi'giri may save Mumbai's mangroves

Often, one man’s determination and unyielding spirit can make a huge difference in the most trying situations. Santacruz resident Jagdish Gandhi (73) has seemingly secured a new lease on life for the city’s mangroves.

mangroves

Last week, after years of litigation, a team of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and police officials finally accompanied him to Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) for a site inspection of mangroves, around which a barrier is to be constructed to prevent illegal debris dumping.

In 2005, Bombay High Court had directed cops to thwart the unlawful dumping of debris around all mangroves in Maharashtra — an order, which was being blatantly violated.

In December 2011, Gandhi — who argued the case himself — got the high court to order the construction of ‘heavy, permanent barricades and/or iron gates’ at all roads used by trucks to dump rubble around mangroves. The gates were to be guarded by cops to prevent admission of such trucks.

The court had also directed Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to remove all waste dumped at Vakola nallah on SV Road. Unfortunately, none of these directions were implemented, until now. According to the police, construction of the required barrier is slated to commence in the first week of September.

The site inspection, conducted by DCP Zone VIII, senior PI (Kherwadi police station), MMRDA, and Gandhi himself, is a prelude to the erection of the palisade, slated to begin in the first week of next month.

Gandhi, a successful businessman and avid traveller, stays with his wife Indira at an apartment in Santacruz (W). According to him, redevelopment of buildings and new construction is the main source of the debris, which costs a lot to dispose of. Contractors resort to dumping it into the sea to save money. “BKC is an upscale area. Therefore the mafia sees a golden opportunity to earn money this way,” he added.

“Mangroves aren’t anyone’s private property. They’ve been around for millions of years. They protect soil from eroding, safeguard marine diversity and play an invaluable role as nature’s shield against cyclones and ecological disasters by screening shorelines. They are also my children,” Gandhi said.

Apart from his work with mangroves, Gandhi also fought for the protection of Mumbai's historical water tanks, especially Banganga in Walkeshwar, which was declared as a heritage precinct in 1988, thanks to his efforts. 

We welcome the order: Cops
Senior police inspector Avdhoot Chavan of Kherwadi police station said, “We welcome the court order. Construction on the barricades will begin in the first week of September. Many illegal methods are employed to dump debris in this area.”

Chavan added that a criminal, Ratan Rathod, organised the disposing of waste in the area every night. “He was also behind illegal chopping of trees in the area. We have recently externed Rathod,” he told
MiD DAY. 

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