A tale of two reports: TMC tweaks mangrove destruction note

Updated: Mar 15, 2019, 21:59 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

As activists allege debris dumping in Thane Creek causing a flooding risk, Thane corporation slyly changes mangrove cell officer's report

A tale of two reports: TMC tweaks mangrove destruction note
The first report by RFO Adgaonkar stated that dumping of debris was being done near the Thane Creek

Two diametrically opposite reports on the exact same issue by two officers of the same government cell, have green activists smelling a rat. While the report by one officer of the Mangroves Cell on the Thane Waterfront Project site asserts that there is mangrove destruction evident there, a report by another officer says there is absolutely no mangrove destruction to be found.

Green activists have alleged that the changes in the latest report have been made "in order to help protect the Thane Municipal Corporation". Environmental activist Rohit Joshi, who had filed an RTI in this regard, this week received a response that pointed to the contradiction. He has alleged that the Thane Smart City Limited (TSCL) is illegally dumping debris at the Thane Creek to build a waterfront.

RFO Adgaonkar's report also stated that the mangroves cover in the area had reduced from 2016 to 2018
RFO Adgaonkar's report also stated that the mangroves cover in the area had reduced from 2016 to 2018

"The project is already choking mangroves and displacing wildlife along with local fishermen," the Thane-based activist had alleged when he had filed a complaint with the Thane Tehsildar office and Mangroves Cell of the Forest Department last year. On June 27, Range Forest Officer of Mangroves Cell Seema Adgaonkar had visited the spot at Ghodbuner road along with the Tehsildar and activist Joshi after which she had submitted a report of her observations. "We found that dumping of debris was being done near the Thane Creek and the area was being leveled using a JCB. When we questioned the dumper driver and JCB operator, they told us that the work related to beach beautification and tourism of Thane Municipal Corporation was going on," her report reads.

The GPS readings of the location also revealed that the mangroves cover had reduced from 2016 to 2018. The area where the TMC was carrying out work falls under the jurisdiction of the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) and the civic body should have thus taken necessary permissions from the board, the Mangroves Cell and the High Court, her report read, concluding that it was "being submitted for further action." Post her visit, the High Court-appointed Wetland Committee had filed a complaint against the TMC.

RFO Seema Adgaonkar
RFO Seema Adgaonkar

TMC asks for second visit

"The TMC raised objection on the report submitted by the RFO saying that civic officials were not present when the site visit was done by Mangroves Cell officials and so the Konkan Divisional Commissioner has asked the Thane Tehsildar office to conduct another visit," said Joshi. "It was thus done in October 2018 and a report was submitted by RFO Prakash Chaudhari to the divisional forest officer of Mangroves Cell on October 30, 2018 stating that no destruction of mangroves was found. I think that the changes in the report have been made to protect the TMC-appointed contractor," he alleged.

The officials part of the second visit included officials from Tehsildar Office, TMC, and the Mangroves Cell. "The MMB is carrying out work on the waterfront project near Gaimukh-Reti Bunder and the TMC-appointed contractor is working on the Nagla bunder waterfront as part of Thane Smart City Project. MMB officials told the visiting team that they had all the necessary permissions," stated Chaudhari's report.

"At one location, we found the there were mangroves of the Avicennia Marina species and they were in good health, along with some tall grass in the adjoining areas. There were three to four truckloads of debris dumped in that area and it must have been done before the monsoon. The contractor had also done barricading with a board to protect the mangroves," Chaudhari's report read, adding that some anti-social elements are responsible for dumping debris in the area and so the contractor had filed a complaint with the Kasarvadavli police station in August 2018. "At none of the locations, destruction of mangroves has taken place," his report concludes. Activist Joshi has now planned to write to the Chief Conservator of Forest, Thane, regarding discrepancies in the two reports.

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