A Bombay High Court-appointed state wetland and mangrove panel has asked the State Environment Department and Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) to look into the complaints of mangrove destruction in Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) area.
Local activists and fishermen’s forum had earlier complained to the committee against hacking of mangroves for the expansion of JNPT’s 4th Container Terminal. Last week, fishermen in Navi Mumbai had also filed a petition before the Bombay High Court opposing the environmental clearances given to JNPT to expand its container facilities.
Following the complaints, the MCZMA had asked the Konkan divisional commissioner and Raigad district collector to file an inspection report. Subsequently, a joint inspection by the revenue and forest teams had confirmed that several mangroves have dried up due to a blockage in water flow and were destroyed at two places. The panel, in its January meeting, requested the environment department to look into the complaints and take appropriate action in the matter.
“As per the information given to us in response to our RTI application, MCZMA, while giving environmental clearance to JNPT, had clearly stipulated that no construction should be done on mangroves or within the 50-m buffer zone from the sea plants,” said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect.
On July 29, 2008, JNPT had obtained environment clearance from the Union environment ministry to reclaim 200 hectares for building storage yards, roads, railway depots, parking areas, office buildings, etc. In phase 1 of the project, construction work was carried out across 90 hectares, including 19.5-hectares of mangrove forest.
On October 9 last year, JNPT obtained a fresh CRZ clearances from the state’s coastal authority to start work on the second phase.
In an earlier incident, which involved destruction of over 4,000 mangroves during construction of the 4th Container Terminal, the High Court-appointed committee had imposed a penalty of Rs 1 lakh on JNPT. The fishing community earlier opposed the massive landfill on 110 hectares of the sea and destruction of mangroves in 19.5 hectares.
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