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'Mangrove destroyer' caught on camera

Andheri residents secure incriminating photographic evidence against builder constructing residential complex by dumping debris in mangroves; manage to get FIR registered
 
Armed with photographs of dumpers ruining lush mangroves by dumping debris in them, the residents of Lokhandwala in Andheri (West) have not only managed to curtail the destruction near Jogger's Park, but have also managed to get an first information report (FIR) registered (copy with MiD DAY) against Samarth Development Corporation.

The police inspect the site on Friday after more than 800 residents, led by Ashok Pandit took to the streets against the builder. After the protest, the authorities ordered clearing of the debris


The residents have accused the developer of destroying the mangroves, so that the area could be encroached upon for construction of a residential complex.

On the occasion of Republic Day, film personality and social activist Ashok Pandit, spearheaded a mass movement of over 800 citizens against the alleged encroachment of the mangroves to highlight the issue.

The protesters sought action action against the construction of a multi-storeyed residential complex Swami Samarth Prasanna CHS on the same plot.

After the rally, the police and the civic authorities swung into action on Friday afternoon and initiated the process of clearing the area of illegal sheds, and recorded statements of the protesters and the staff of the construction company.

'Photos nailed them'


"The land filling on the prime 7,741 sq m of mangrove area had been going on unnoticed on a small-scale for some years, but it intensified in recent times. It is only recently that we managed to secure photographic evidence and satellite imagery required to nail the errant builder, and ask the authorities to take necessary action," said Pandit.

He added that initially, they were finding it hard to convince the officials about the ongoing destruction.
However, once they showed the photographic evidence to Valsa Nair, secretary, State Environment department, an inquiry was ordered into the matter and was carried out by the District Collector, BMC and Forest department in the second week of January (copy with MiD DAY).

"We are taking up this case to act as a deterrent and set a precedent for not only encroachments in our area, but would soon be forming an association of coastal areas as far as Dahisar to unite people for the cause," said Pandit.

Residents speak
"It is shocking to know that such a large mangrove area adjoining the creek was allowed to be destroyed. This is a total violation of High Court's orders and CRZ rules.
 
The next logical step would be to remove the entire debris and promote regeneration of the mangrove," commented Hemant Nair, secretary, Lokhandwala residents club.

Sumesh Lekhi, a CA and an environmentalist, said that putting up the cause on social networking sites had yielded a tremendous response from concerned citizens and over 900 residents enrolled within a span of just two days. When contacted, Nitin Gupta, chief promoter sales for Samarth Development Corporation, refused to comment.

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