It's not just stone quarrying that is choking the green lungs of Navi Mumbai. Another menace that is slowly killing the forested patch on the hills near Nerul is the illegal development of shanties.
Illegal shanties have started coming up in Nerul
Environmentalists and activists feel that if adequate measures are not taken, the green patch on the hills will vanish and shanties will come up on the entire hill. When mid-day visited the spot recently, on the left hand side of the north-bound stretch of the Sion-Panvel Highway near Nerul, we found that there are more than 100 shanties that have come up.
More surprising is the fact that despite this location being so close to the highway, the authorities seem to have turned a blind eye to the encroachments. Anyone taking this route can see the shanties that have come up. When mid-day visited the location, we were told by the locals that these structures have come up in the past four-five years and the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) had carried out some demolition work last year, but the shanties have made a return.
According to the locals, the areas where the shanties have come up is near Ramesh Metal Quarry. “The area on the hill where the shanties have come up is known as Ramesh Metal Quarry and the area falls under the jurisdiction of MIDC and they should also look into the matter.
However, last year, we had demolished a few shanties at the same spot,” said Prakash Waghmare, assistant municipal commissioner (Encroachments), NMMC. There is also a stone quarrying unit that is operational just 500-800 metres away from this location, which, according to environmentalists, is already causing a severe negative impact on the environment.
Activists say that the situation could become worse if action is not taken against the encroachment. mid-day also visited another location near the Pandavkhada waterfalls at Kharghar, where stone quarrying is going on. While forest department officials claim that the quarrying is taking place on private land, local villagers told this paper that they face noise pollution, and after the monsoon, they might have to face air pollution issues too.
When mid-day visited the spot near Pandavkhada waterfalls, we found that quarrying was going on at a portion of a hill near the falls. A large chunk of the hill near the falls had been eaten up due to quarrying. Locals revealed that the quarrying has been taking place for over a month.
“We hear loud noises during night time and at times when there is no rain, dust starts accumulating in our village,” said a villager from a village situated near the Kharghar golf course. Further, dumping of mud and stone debris was going on at a large portion of land besides the golf course and gurudwara at Kharghar.
Mohan Ninawe, chief PRO, CIDCO, said, “I am not aware about the present scenario at the spot. We will have to check what kind of work has been carried out beside the open plot at the gurudwara.” Speaking on the increasing number of shanties, environmentalist Anarjit Chauhan said, “The shanties on the hill are illegal and are mushrooming with the help of influential people.
Apart from quarry workers, even people from other cities are provided huts on such hills for accommodation. Authorities pass the buck on to other departments and there has to be a control on such activities.”