Local residents living near the site of the proposed metro rail car-shed at Kanjurmarg stated that efforts are being made by unidentified persons to encroach the land opposite the car-shed site.
Since the past few weeks, slum dwellers have marked multiple plots by using ribbons and tapes. A large part of the land area is filled with mangroves, hence, in an attempt to protect the site from illegal encroachers, forest department officials had constructed a wall, which was demolished partially by the miscreants last week.
Now local residents are fearing that these people may illegally take over the mangroves during the long Christmas weekend. Stalin Dayanand, Environmentalist and director of nature conservation group 'Vanashakti' has written about this issue to the mangrove cell seeking immediate intervention on the matter.
"Various plots on these land areas are being marked elaborately for distributing them to the slum dwellers. There's a large group of land mafia involved, who are planning to relocate a group of people in this plot during the Christmas weekend" Stalin told FPJ.
The entire 700 hectares of the protected Kanjurmarg grasslands once used to be filled with mangroves. Between 2000-2015, encroachers had cut away all the mangroves and made the area barren, encroachers had also blocked the inlets to stop the inflow of hightide water. Later, the local Tehsildar had ordered to remove the blockages in order to protect the mangrove.
Last weekend Stalin, along with a few local residents had chased away a group of encroachers from these mangroves. He stated that these are the same encroachers who wanted to destroy the mangroves.
"Since the government has announced that metro car-shed will be built over here, many people have developed interest on this land, now they are planning to construct shanties here and transform this area into a ghetto" he added.
The forest department has already deputed guards on these grasslands for surveillance. However, they also maintained that the entire land area doesn't fall under their jurisdiction, still they are coordinating with the other government agencies. The area of the total grasslands is around 750 hectares of which around 300 hectares belong to the forest department. Forest officials also mentioned that at times the number of encroachers are so many that their guards become outnumbered.
"After receiving complaints we have deputed guards in the area and are trying to keep the encroachers away, although the entire area doesn't belong to the forest department still we are trying to protect it as much as we can from the miscreants" Vasu Kokare, Range Forest Officer (RFO) told FPJ.