Following allegations of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) violations by the defence forces at Colaba, officials from the mangrove cell visited the mangrove forests adjoining the Sagarmatha club at Navy Nagar on Wednesday.
The Army, who owns the club, has hired a private contractor to refill the existing embankment (breakwater) that extends into the sea from the club’s premises. The refilled embankment abuts the mangroves in the area. A Bombay High Court order prohibits any work within 50 metres of mangroves, irrespective of the ownership of the land.
“Our officials conducted a preliminary survey and took GPS readings of the mangroves and the site of work to establish the distance. We will also ascertain if the mangrove forests have been notified as reserved forests,” said assistant conservator of forests V G Jukar. Senior officials from the mangrove cell will be visiting the site again on Thursday for further verification, he added.
Besides the work on the embankment, civilians residing close to the Sagarmatha club have alleged that the Army has violated CRZ norms while extending the previously existing Sagarmatha club structure, within 50 metres of the mangrove forests. “Under the guise of repairing the existing structure, Sagarmatha club has been extended and a ground plus one floor in the form of a new building has been constructed within the premises. We can understand that the CRZ norms are relaxed in case of defence outposts, but violating these norms to extend a recreational facility of the defence cannot be taken lightly,” said a resident, who did not wish to be named.
An NGO has also written to the divisional commissioner of Konkan about the alleged destruction of mangroves. Conservation Action Trust (CAT)’s Debi Goenka has further alleged that the Sagarmatha club building itself was built illegally a few years ago, for which the NGO had filed a complaint with the Konkan divisional commissioner in March 2006, but lamented that no action was taken. “Action needs to be taken against the senior officers of the defence responsible for this destruction of mangroves and reclamation,” the letter stated.
Meanwhile, the Army has said that the refilling work is being done on an existing embankment to stop the incursion of sea water. “We are refilling the breakwater to stop the incursion of sea water, which has taken away at least 4 to 5 feet of land in the past one year alone. We are not constructing any new structure and this work does not restrict or divert the flow of sea water from the mangroves. There has been no communication with the forest department before undertaking this work,” said Commander Rahul Sinha, defence PRO.”Forest department officials regularly visit the site for survey,” he added.
About the club extension, the Army has maintained that it has not undertaken construction of any new structure, but simply modified the existing structure.