Navi Mumbai: On intervention from the Prime Minister’s Office, the State Mangrove Cell has launched an investigation into environmentalists’ complaints about unchecked destruction of the tidal plants under the guise of the so-called mangrove diversion for infrastructure projects.
NatConnect Foundation has lodged a complaint with the PM that there is no proper audit of the mangroves being destroyed under the guise of highway and other infrastructure projects such as SEZ. Despite Modi’s much-proclaimed love for the environment and his favourite MISHTI - Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes – the authorities down the line fail to keep an eye on the destruction of the tidal plants, the NGO said, and appealed to the government to government is to go beyond attractive acronyms and take strong measures to protect the sea forests.
The PMO sent the complaint to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) which in turn asked the Mangrove Cell to investigate. The Mangrove Cell has promptly assigned its Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Cell to urgently investigate and report, NatConnect director B N Kumar, who received the communique to this effect, said.
However, a deadline has not been mentioned to complete the enquiry. The enquiry report will also be shared with the centre.
Kumar expressed the hope that with the intervention of the PMO, there is a hope of the officials keeping a proper watch on the mangrove destruction and acting. “We shall keep following up through the RTI Act route,” he declared.
Kumar also lamented that planners such as CIDCO keep leasing out mangrove zones to projects such as NMSEZ and JNPA SEZ despite the High Court mandate that mangroves must be protected. He asked: How can CIDCO lease out something that it does not own?
The Mangrove Cell is supposed to undertake compensatory afforestation in lieu of the plants destroyed along the coast for development such as roads and bridges. But there is no check on the mangroves being chopped which is detrimental to the environment, said Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan.
Both Kumar and Pawar had raised their voices against the destruction of mangroves for the expansion of the Sion-Panvel State Highway and the PWD had not bothered to respond to the Mangrove Committee's directive to explain.
There have been several violations of the High Court judgment of September 2018 banning mangrove killing and calling for the transfer of all mangrove forests to the forest department, the green groups said.
Stalin D of NGO Vanashakti has moved the High Court with a contempt petition as CIDCO and others have inordinately delayed the process of handing over the mangroves to the forest department.
Destruction of Mangroves | FPJ