Metro contractor accused of destroying mangroves says it was just grass

Updated: Feb 06, 2018, 10:56 IST | Laxman Singh and Ranjeet Jadhav

Activists allege officials have destroyed mangroves along Juhu Koliwada for a casting yard for the DN Nagar-Mankhurd line

The site where the mangroves have been destroyed, as claimed by activists, at Juhu Koliwada. Pic/Laxman Singh
The site where the mangroves have been destroyed, as claimed by activists, at Juhu Koliwada. Pic/Laxman Singh

The Metro IIB (DN Nagar to Mankhurd-Mandala) line has gotten embroiled in a controversy even before work to construct it has begun. Activists have alleged that contractors appointed for it have destroyed mangroves at Juhu Koliwada. They claimed that last month, they began constructing a casting yard for Metro IIB on Juhu Koliwada beach. The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) is executing the 23.5-km corridor, which has 22 stations.

The contractor has allegedly cleared a green patch spread over about 10 acres on Juhu Koliwada beach. Just a few metres away, the construction for BMC's Gazdarbandh pumping station is on. The Bombay High Court had granted permission to the civic body to go ahead with it after it had assured that the mangroves cut during the pumping station's construction would be relocated. When mid-day visited the place, it saw that a large section had been completely cleared of greenery, and a few container chowkies were set up.

The spot in Juhu Koliwada where mangroves were allegedly destroyed for Metro IIB. Pic/Laxman Singh
The spot in Juhu Koliwada where mangroves were allegedly destroyed for Metro IIB. Pic/Laxman Singh

'A no-development zone'
An activist from Khar Road, Zoru Bhathena, has alleged that the area where the contractor is carrying out the work is an NDZ (no-development zone), and earlier, Google satellite images showed a big patch of green (cover) on the beach. However, now, only a small part of mangroves is left next to a Christian cemetery. "I checked BMC's development plan (DP) 1991, which clearly shows this particular stretch as NDZ and an exception for the ancillary to the needs of the fishermen community. There is a board put up by the state government mentioning that this area has been given to the local kolis to dry their fish.

"How can Metro work be done on a sandy beach is beyond understanding! Destroying a beach to build a Metro is a senseless act. The government has gone absolutely mad. Mangroves are crucial for coastal ecology, and they play a very important role in preventing flooding." Bhathena said the place also comes under CRZ I, which is for ecologically sensitive areas.

An earlier Google Maps image of the Juhu Koliwada mangroves
An earlier Google Maps image of the Juhu Koliwada mangroves

'Mangroves not touched'
When mid-day visited the site, a diary with the contractor's staff showed that work had started from January 15. When asked about the destruction of mangroves, a staffer said that they had not cut or burnt the mangroves on the patch. "This part had only grass; there were no mangroves on it, and we have not cut any trees either. The mangroves are at the corner of the plot, and they have not been touched," he added.

When asked about permission for the activity, the staffer was clueless and said the work was for Metro casting yard. Unlike at other Metro work sites, there was no information board put up by the MMRDA contractors as to what kind of work was going on and when it would end.

Also read: Randeep Hooda tweets about mangroves destruction at Versova

Officialspeak
Additional Metropolitan Commissioner Pravin Darade was not available for comment. Sources from MMRDA said the government land in question has been in possession of the authority for the last six years. MMRDA can temporarily allow the same to be used for a project, and hence, it is being used as a casting yard.

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