The Maharashtra government has issued a final notification under section 20 of the Indian Forest Act for a total of 2467.62 hectares of mangroves, of which 1458.70 hectares are in Thane district, 514.46 hectares are in Raigad district and 494.46 hectare are in Palghar district. Tourism and Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray said, “These are newly added areas to the mangrove conservation effort that has been undertaken by the state Forest and Environment Departments, which are working together with the Revenue Department to accord the mangroves their due protection. There is more in process.”
Aaditya, in a recent letter to the Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar, had appealed to incorporate section 19 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, for the effective protection of mangroves in the state. The CRZ notification issued in January, 2011, categorises mangrove areas as CRZ-I- eco-sensitive areas and stipulates the prohibition of construction in mangrove areas. “The state government has notified the mangroves on government land as reserved forest under the Forest Act, 1927. The state Revenue and Forest Departments have created a mangrove cell, a dedicated body within the latter department for the conservation of mangroves in the state,” he said.
He further noted that the Forest Department has no authority to take cognisance of mangrove destruction on private land. “Such violations are dealt with under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, read with the CRZ notification, 2011, and officers authorised to take cognisance of offences are the district collector, sub-divisional officers, the state Pollution Control Board and the Environment Department,” he noted.
Natconnect Foundation Director BN Kumar said the government’s effort to protect mangroves and wetlands is appreciated. “However, thousands of mangroves are large hunks of wetlands that are being destroyed in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region in particular due to faulty urban planning. Mangroves in Uran under City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), Navi Mumbai SEZ and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) jurisdiction are yet to be transferred to the Forest Department for conservation. In other places, such as Vashi, Kharghar and Ulwe, the sea plans are being damaged and lands are being reclaimed with no authority worth its name acting to protect the biodiversity. The rapid disappearance of wetlands is already causing floods in many areas of Uran,” he viewed.