In a significant move, the Mira Bhayandar Municipal Corporation (MBMC) has written a letter to the district collector of Thane seeking relaxations allowing maintenance of public properties and amenities situated on land parcels which have been tagged as reserved forest area and on coastal regulation zones (CRZ).
Around 1,036 hectares (more than 2,500 acres) of mangrove belts in 11 revenue villages of the twin-city had been notified as reserved forests in January 2021 and transferred to the forest department in June 2021. The move is in accordance with directions issued by the Bombay High Court to hand over all mangrove areas on state land to the forest department for better conservation and to improve protection of mangroves as they act as buffers during natural disasters such as tsunamis and cyclones.
The classification process was part of the forest department’s campaign to bring all mangrove forests in Maharashtra under the purview of section 20 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (IFA). Citing hurdles towards maintenance of existing facilities, including public toilets, crematoriums, community halls, nullahs and roads that cater to the needs of citizens living in pre-2000 tenements and slum clusters, the civic administration has sought relaxations from the government through the district collector.
The MBMC has also pointed out the possibility of mishaps due to lack of maintenance and repair work. “It is the duty of the civic administration to provide proper basic amenities to every citizen and for this timely maintenance and carrying out repair work is extremely important. We have sought permission from the district collector” said city engineer Deepak Khambit.
While construction of new amenities has been put on hold, the MBMC is helplessly watching rickety structures which were crying for repairs. To try and get them excluded from the reserve forest area, the MBMC had conducted an elaborate survey of such residential pockets that stood on such land parcels in December 2021. The mangrove belts were individually assessed and mapped using Maharashtra Remote Sensing Applications Centre's high-resolution satellite imagery, following which notification orders to this effect were passed. Notifying areas as reserved forest allows the forest department to take action against violators.