Although the Bombay High Court (HC) has banned reclamation and construction on wetlands across the state, the Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC) has undertaken drainage work in mangrove areas next to its sewage treatment plant (STP) and allowed the construction of a concrete jetty at Jesal Park in Bhayander.
These works continue unabated in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) areas, which members of the mangrove cell visited in February following an HC directive. The court, on March 19, directed that prompt action be taken by the collector and authorities designated under the Environment Protection Act against the violations.
A report submitted to the court by the mangrove cell on February 19 stated that the Jesal Park Chowpatty, Chacha Nehru Baludhyan and ancillary facilities created by the MBMC such as playgrounds and jetty are located in areas that were shown as coastal zone landscape under mangroves up to 2005.
At present, dumpers, cement mixers and earth movers are being used in the area just outside the STP at Jesal Park. In this area alone, a police chowkie, a public toilet and several playgrounds were constructed in CRZ-1 area using corporation and former and current corporator funds, as stated in the report and evident from the plaques on their walls. At these places, mangrove trees touch the boundary walls, although no construction is allowed within 50 m of mangroves, as per CRZ norms.
“Despite the misuse of funds and position, allowing illegal construction and violation of laws and defiance of the HC order, no FIR has been filed by the revenue department against corporation officials,” said Dhiraj Parab, an activist and co-petitioner.
MBMC commissioner Suresh Kakani said, “This land was given to us by the collector. I need to check when the transfer and development was carried out as well as ascertain who is responsible for the construction and whether it was done before or after the CRZ rules came into force. About the chowpatty and Jesal Park areas, I will verify and respond in an affidavit to the court,” said Kakani. “I have instructed the corporation officials to inform the collector or forest officials to lodge an FIR whenever they come across such violations as we are not empowered to lodge a complaint ourselves,” he added.