Hopes of conserving over 40 lakh mangrove trees under City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) and revenue department have soared after the Prime Minister’s Office responded to environmentalists’ complaints against the delay in transferring them to the forest department in violation of the Bombay High Court’s order.
The State Mangrove Cell has now confirmed in writing that 3,948.36 hectares of mangrove-bearing lands are with CIDCO and the revenue department. The issue was discussed at the meetings of the Mangrove Protection and Conservation Monitoring Committee headed by the Divisional Commissioner, Konkan Division.
CIDCO has been directed to handover about 1,200 hectare of mangroves by October 30, mangrove cell chief and Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest S V Ramarao, informed NatConnect Foundation.
NatConnect Foundation has drawn in July last year the PM’s attention to mangrove destruction and coastal erosion despite Narendra Modi’s proclaimed love for mangroves and the PMO has referred the issue to the state government.
“We have also complained to the PM against the violation of Bombay High Court order to conserve the mangroves and the over four-year-long inaction in completing the transfer of the sea plants to the forest department for conservation as per the High Court order,” NatConnect director B N Kumar said.
Other departments have also been directed to complete the process at the earliest, he said.
Kumar wrote to the PM saying that the inordinate delay in transferring mangroves – the natural protection against coastal erosion, storms and tsunamis – has led to the unchecked destruction of mangroves at several places in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), particularly in Uran.
“What is even more concerning is the sheer lack of respect on the part of even official agencies such as CIDCO to the directives given by the High Court-appointed Mangrove Protection and Conservation Committee,” he said in his complaint.
Meanwhile, Ramarao said the forest department has so far taken possession of 21,099.55 ha of mangrove-bearing lands.
As regards the destruction of mangroves, he said, the mangrove cell takes care of the plants which are in possession of the forest department. But in the case of the mangrove areas which are under other authorities, the cell doesn’t have any jurisdiction, he said.
The Environment department has been requested to look into the issue of coastal soil erosion, Ramarao said.
The PMO has since closed Kumar’s complaint following this correspondence.
Nandakumar Pawar, head of Sagarshakti, has expressed his shock and dismay at the inordinate delay in handing over the mangroves to the forest department. “With debris mafia being very active, the authorities are miserably failing to protect the mangroves despite our series of complaints,” he said.