The country's largest container port JNPT will handover 815 hectares of land to the Forest Department as mangroves for conservation as reserved forest.
State environment minister Aditya Thackeray tweeted that
"In our review meeting today, JNPT has agreed to hand over 815 ha of its land to the Forest Dept as mangroves. MMRDA will hand over 199 ha of land, Thackeray tweeted.
"Over the last two years, our regular meetings with the forest department and mangrove cell has got more than 11,000 hectares of land under the protection of the Indian Forest Act officially," said Aaditya.
Environmentalists pointed out that JNPT is still to account for almost 100 hectares of mangroves.
"In their RTI response JNPT informed us that they had 913 hectares of mangroves under its jurisdiction, " B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation, pointed out.
This means, about 100 ha, equivalent to the size of ten Azad Maidans, is yet to be handed over.
The government must immediately ask JNPT to transfer the remaining 100 ha, Kumar said.
Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishthan, said JNPT record on environment front is not exemplary. The port and its contractors have been destroying mangroves and Wetlands indiscriminately, he said and recalled that JNPT has been fined Rs one lakh by the High Court appointed Mangrove Committee for destroying 4,500 mangroves in the work for Container Terminal IV.
Kumar pointed out that even for JNPT SEZ , vast stretches of mangroves have been buried. More of this sea forest is at stake now, he said.
NatConnect Foundation argued that the mangroves under Navi Mumbai SEZ, which has since been denotified, are yet to be taken over. "On our complaint, the Chief Minister had asked the Forest and Environment departments to check this," Kumar said.
Bombay High Court had ordered in September 2018 to handover all mangroves for conservation to the Forest Department.
The delay in this process is only encouraging destruction, Pawar said.
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