Adivashi has been pointing out how late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray had ordered a ban on reckless plundering of the Parshik Hills in the name of quarrying, much beyond the permitted or licensed quantities. While environmentalists argue that quarrying or for that matter digging up of mud hills play havoc with the nature, urban planners say it is a necessary evil.
Of late, the issue of destroying of mangroves is being hotly debated in the city. It is just not the debris mafia or land grabbers who are harming the mangroves so vital for protection of the sea shores from the vagaries of the tides, but the expansion and repairs of the highway that has caused immense damage to the fauna.
In fact, the National Green Tribunal has recently ruled that the expansion of the Sion-Panvel highway – from six lanes to ten lanes – is illegal since environmental clearances have not been obtained for the work that damaged mangroves. The order which was passed during the poll season also prohibits the collection of proposed toll tax at Kharghar-Kamote to recover the money spent on the expansion. The toll plaza is also considered illegal from another stand point that the State Government itself has stipulated the distance between two toll plazas to be 40 km to 60 km, where Kharghar is just 17 km away from Vashi. BJP promised toll-mukt Maharashtra and it will be interesting to see how many tolls they will scrap once the new State Government take charge.
On the Green Tribunal front, it is not expected to restore the highway back to six-lane one, but may call for replanting the mangroves elsewhere to maintain the balance of nature, just as CIDCO is planning to do while executing the Navi Mumbai International Airport project.
Meanwhile, mangroves continue to be destroyed at Airoli. Environmental NGP Vanashakti says as much as ten acres – equivalent to the NMSA ground – has been cleared of mangroves by seafood mafia. Fishermen gangs construct illegal dams to hold tidal waters for crab culture. Mere putting up signs proclaiming that the area is under Forest Department and that no activity is permitted here has not been of much help in solving the problem. The forest department does not have enough security and the local police is vexed with its own security concerns.
This gives rise to several questions like why seafood mafia thrives on such wanton destruction of nature and how it creates land parcels for ultimate illegal constrictions of even shanties. This is what is bound to happen when urbanization does not take care of the welfare of the displaced families. The villages gobbled up by the planned city of Navi Mumbai and the predominant Agri-Koli communities have not been given justice in terms of proper resettlement and compensation packages. Like Adivashi reported earlier, several families in villages like Ju Gaon and Vashi resorted to ‘need-based construction’, some fisher folk are now going in for crab culture on their own. They obviously enjoy the support of mafia or politicians or both.
The way slums have been mushrooming and even prospering – as they mint money by reselling – with the announcement of extension of SRA scheme for Navi Mumbai amply goes to prove that they enjoy political patronage. Else, how can anyone explain the fact that City of the 21st Century that is supposed to be slum-free is all set to derive benefit out of the SRA scheme? This can also be blamed on the urban planners’ failure to address the housing needs of low income groups such as construction labour and odd-jobbers who form backbone of the urban development.
The Prime Minister’s much-publicised Swachha Bharat Abhiyan is just not about the VIPs doing a photo-op with brooms in their hands. It is also about keeping the city clean of slums, ugly unauthorized constructions and more over free of eye sores like hoardings all over on any pretext – elections, birthdays and thanks giving. From elected representatives and defeated candidates to small time political workers have all been indulging in this irresponsible activity of littering the street corners and thoroughfares with horrible hoardings and they want us to believe that they are contributing to the cleanliness drive! What is even much tragic is the fact that the municipal and CIDCO authorities have to spend on time, money, men and machinery to clear these hoardings. Don’t we wonder as to how a former environment minister or his bête noire BJP leader can turn a blind eye to this?
This is the 93rd in a series on Navi Mumbai by veteran media professional B N Kumar, a long time resident of Mumbai’s twin city. He can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org
B N Kumar
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