Mangroves at the junction of Sectors 2 and 8 in Charkop caught fire on Friday night. State government officials suspect foul play as this is the third attempt to destroy the mangroves at the same spot.
“A few anti-social elements destroyed the barbed wire fencing and around 11.30 pm on Friday, the north-east corner of the plot was set on fire, possibly to destroy the mangroves,” S B Rajyadhyaksha, assistant engineer of R-South ward, wrote to the deputy collector’s office on Saturday.
The ward officer, in his letter, has asked the deputy collector to make arrangements to protect the mangroves by replacing the damaged barbed wire fencing urgently.
Activists allege that the fire was caused by land mafia, who have been eying the plot for a long time. “We have complained about the activities at this spot several times, but no proper action is taken beyond such letters. The collector has to take strict action against the land mafia operating in the area if we are serious about protecting our open spaces and mangrove forests,” said activist Reji Abraham.
The junction has around 50 hectares of mangrove, of which only 0.43 hectare is notified mangrove forests under the mangrove cell’s jurisdiction and the rest is under the jurisdiction of the collector.
Mangroves are protected according to the directions of the Bombay High Court in 2005.
On Saturday, once the fire department got the fire under control, officials from the mangrove cell, along with ward officers, inspected the spot.
The site had earlier been earmarked for construction of a depot of the Metro transit system. However, after opposition from environmentalists and delay in getting regulatory clearances, the state had decided to scour for another land for the project.