Navi Mumbai: Don't Allot Poll Duties To Environment Dept Officials, Greens Request EC

Navi Mumbai: Don't Allot Poll Duties To Environment Dept Officials, Greens Request EC

Mangrove destruction and land grab have been happening at a regular pace all along the coast at places such as Kharghar, Ulwe and Uran," the letter said.

Bhalchandra ChorghadeUpdated: Monday, April 08, 2024, 09:04 PM IST
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Election Commission of India | File Photo

Raising an important issue in the wake of ensuing general elections, the environmentalists from Navi Mumbai have written to the Election Commission to spare the officials of environment-related departments from performing election duties.

Stating that environment protection is also an emergency service as that of police, medical and others, the activists said in the letter that during April-May, 2019, large stretches of mangroves and wetlands are buried in Uran region of Maharashtra’s Raigad district.

Signed by the Director of NatConnect Foundation B N Kumar, Nandkumar Pawar of Sagar Shakti and Godfrey Pimenta of Watchdog Foundation, the letter said that environmental destruction affects everyone. "For instance, the burial of wetlands and resultant rise in the levels of the lands reclaimed rendered the low-lying areas further low and caused unseasonal floods there. Many villages of Uran reeled under floods during the Holi festival in 2020 as tidal water found its own way. Around the same time, we had high tide water inundating the Central Business District of Belapur."

Acknowledging the receipt of the letter, the Election Commission has ensured the activists of a positive action on the concerns raised.

"Even now, the 289-hectare inter-tidal wetland at Panje in Uran appears totally dry as the water inlets from the creek are frequently blocked. Ditto is the case with the DPS Flamingo Lake at Nerul. The 30-acre lake has been nearly dry.

Allegations of mangrove destruction and land grab

Mangrove destruction and land grab have been happening at a regular pace all along the coast at places such as Kharghar, Ulwe and Uran," the letter said.

"There could be many more such violations all across the country. These could be related to polluting the rivers and the sea, cutting of trees and discharge of effluents into open drains and gases into the atmosphere. Hence, we appeal to you to instruct the governments across the country to spare the environmental care related from the round-the-clock election duties," the activists pleaded.

They pointed out that the officials responsible for site inspections could not perform their environment related duties during the 2019 poll season.

“None other than the Chairman of the High Court appointed Mangrove and Wetlands committees himself said he was away on election duty when we complained against the destruction of mangroves and wetlands in Uran. Luckily for us, the member secretary of these committees, Neenu Somraj personally inspected the violation sites and halted the burial of wetlands in Uran,” the environmentalists say.

Hailing that the Commission was kind enough to escalate the environmental issue with the concerned government officials, the activists are aware of the fact the election also needs a huge field force.

Involvement of officials must restricted to bare minimum, demand Greens

In such a scenario, the involvement of the environmental department officials could be restricted to bare minimum for the election duties so that they can keep their watch on environmental care.

The officials of Indian Forest Service and Territorial Staff of Forest Department have been officially exempted from Election Duties under the Notification issued under People's Representation Act, 1951 and the Rules made thereunder. 

As such, the State Forest Officials including Mangroves Department should also be granted similar exemption from poll duties. During the polling season, a maximum number of encroachments take place on forest lands including destruction of mangroves and forest fires., the letter warned and sought immediate action.

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