Make Mumbra cool again

Resident files PIL against illegal sand mining, debris dumping and construction; says erosion of mangrove cover in area has led to rise in temperature

When repeated complaints of destruction of mangroves, illegal sand mining, debris dumping and construction in Mumbra creek and Desai creek, connecting to Ulhas river, fell on deaf ears, 37-year-old RTI activist from Mumbai turned to the Bombay High Court for help.

Desai Creek has illegal sheds which function as hookah parlours
Desai Creek has illegal sheds which function as hookah parlours

In a PIL filed on November 16, 2015, Arif Nawaz Iraqi, a civil engineer, requested the High Court to acknowledge the destruction of mangroves and provide necessary guidelines on how to follow the CRZ rules. “Government authorities who are allowing the illegal activities should be suspended. The Maharashtra coastal zone management authorities should set up beat chowkies and post security personnel to watch the area at both ends of the creek,” added Iraqi in his PIL. He said that his attempts to get Shrikant Shinde, Shiv Sena MP from Kalyan constituency, and Ramdas Kadam, the state environment minister, to visit the sites had failed in the past.

Illegal sand mining takes place at Mumbra Creek
Illegal sand mining takes place at Mumbra Creek

Iraqi first lodged complaints with the government authorities like the Thane collector, Tehsildar, Konkan Division and Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority in April 2014. “No one paid heed to my requests. When I started following up with authorities, it turned out that most of them were hand-in-glove with locals and politicians who were illegally destroyed mangroves,” said Iraqi. Twenty five years ago, he said, Mumbra was greener and cooler. “My relatives even called it a hill station. But the decades of destruction of mangroves has increased pollution levels and people even have breathing problems. Today, the area is overpopulated and congested,” said Iraqi.

Iraqi is concerned about the 10-kilometre stretch, which starts from Bhiwandi Toll Naka-Reti Bunder and includes Desai Creek in Diva. “In December 2014, I submitted an appeal against mangrove destruction, and local bodies assured me that they would take action against illegal activities. On February 6, 2015 the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management authorities addressed a letter to collector, Thane, Konkan division, to take action against the destruction of mangroves by reclamation of land and encroachment and illegal sand dredging in the CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone) of Maharashtra. No action was taken. Today, people have built sheds and are running hookah parlours and claim it is legal,” said Iraqi.

“Mumbra is between two hills and floods will drown the area and lives can be lost. Residents are happy they have a house, but what about the beauty of Mumbra, which is being destroyed rampantly?” added Iraqi.

In June 2015, Iraqi had also filed an RTI against action taken. “In all the cases, the accused was unknown person. This clearly raises questions of government’s and police’s apathy towards the issue,” added Iraqi.

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