Flagrant abuse of wetlands in and around Mumbai: Mangrove cell

Due to illegal dumping, wetlands in the coastal belt near Mumbai and surrounding areas are dying.

Written by Anjali Lukose | Mumbai | Published: July 30, 2014 12:41:44 pm

A road cut across a wetland on Thane-Bhiwandi Road with mangroves still standing in the middle of it, private mangrove forest converted into dumping ground by Thane municipal corporation and an entire residential building constructed on a wetland in Thane and wetlands converted into parking lots in Dahisar and Thane were a few gross Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) violations that the mangrove cell found in and around Mumbai. The cell enlisted these violations in its affidavit recently submitted to the Bombay High Court (HC).

The mangrove cell was instructed by the HC to visit spots mentioned in a petition by a group of NGOs, seeking protection of wetlands.

In a “shocking case of flagrant abuse of wetlands” at Dive Anjur, adjacent to Thane-Bhiwandi road, a road made by dumping of debris extends 1.5 km through a vast wetland in the area, the report stated. This road cuts off the flow of tidal water into the wetlands, stretching over 300 hectares. Also, a natural channel, about 15m in width, leading from the Thane creek is completely blocked by the road.

The officials noted several large mangrove trees, some still standing in the middle of the road, struggling to survive. Large amount of debris was dumped in the surroundings too. “The fact that this illegal dumping activity and road construction can easily be seen from the heavily commuted highway only goes to show the audacity of the perpetrators of this environmental outrage. Real estate developers have already put up signboards announcing their intention to undertake a building project at this plot,” said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests, mangrove cell.

A team, headed by Vasudevan, visited the Mumbai-Dahisar Link Road, village Bhuigaon in Vasai, Ghodbunder Road and Dive village in Thane district, Vikhroli-Mulund Road and Targhar village in Raigad district.

In Dive village, the mangrove cell found that a private-owned four-hectare plot, which had mangroves till 2005, had been converted into a dumping ground by the Thane Municipal Corporation. At present, the area is being filled with soil and is being leveled, suggesting the intention to reclaim the land for purposes other than dumping, the affidavit stated.

A larger dumping ground on mangrove land was found near Dive Sabegaon, and next to it, a number of hutments (which are yet to be notified) have been constructed on wetlands. “The wetland spread over 20 hectares is being filled up at an alarming pace by multiple agencies. The scale of destruction here is outrageous,” Vasudevan said.

A wetland near Ganpat Patil Nagar at Dahisar has been reclaimed and converted into a parking lot for private tourist vehicles. A major portion of a wetland near Gavanpada along Uran Road in Raigad has also been converted into a parking lot.

Additionally, at Dahisar, extraction of sand from the wetland is in full swing and water from the wetland is constantly pumped out using diesel suction pumps. Heaps of sand was seen deposited at several places.

“The sites mentioned are telling examples of dying wetlands in the coastal belt near Mumbai and surrounding areas. As rich repositories of biodiversity and storehouses of water, wetlands are of tremendous ecological significance,” said Vasudevan.

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