Navi Mumbai: Responding to environmentalists’ complaint to the Prime Minister regarding the lack of checks on mangrove destruction for various infrastructure projects along the coasts, the Centre has directed the State Forest Department to probe into the issue and report.
NatConnect Foundation has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem on June 26 pleading for a strict audit of the mangrove being destroyed under the guise of projects and fixing proper accountability on the officials responsible for surveillance.
Appreciating PM Modi’s dream project MISHTI - Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes – NatConnect said the government should “go beyond attractive acronyms and take strong measures to protect the sea forests”.
The matter was referred to the Eco Sensitive Zone of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Control which in turn asked the state forest department.
“We have received a communique from MOEFCC scientist Amrita Gupta on the instructions to the Mangrove Cell to investigate the matter and send an action taken report as well,” confirmed NatConnect director B N Kumar.
The letter signed by A K Bhattacharya, Under Secretary – Government of India, in the Sustainable Coastal Management Division, appeared to be quite serious as it says the communique is with the approval of the competent authority, Kumar said.
NatConnect cites UNESCO director-general's quote
NatConnect called for a check on the tidal plants being destroyed under the guise of “permission for diversion” by various project proponents. In his grievance to the PM, Kumar quoted UNESCO director general Audrey Azoulay who has stated that climate change is here to stay and hence every inch of the mangrove system must be protected as the plants not only act as a buffer between land and the sea and act as effective carbon sinks.
The ground reality is that project proponents often seek permissions for diversion of mangroves which actually turns out to be destruction without any supervision or control.
Project proponents secure permissions from HC
Concurring with NatConnect, Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishthan, said project proponents secure permissions from the High Court for diversion of a certain number of mangroves, but there is no supervisory system to verify if the project contractors exceed the limits while chopping the vital tidal plants.
This leads to wanton destruction without any checks, he said and called for a strict audit and surprise checks with drone flights and physical checks of construction sites to keep a close eye on mangroves.