While the Maharashtra government is busy battling the Covid crisis, unscrupulous players have started destroying mangroves, violating all environmental norms, say activists
Ashok Kumar | Clarion India
MUMBAI – With officials busy battling the Covid crisis, vested interests have taken advantage and started chopping mangroves at Panje wetland located on the Navi Mumbai side of the coast, claim environmentalists.
Worried over the manner in which mangroves are being destroyed at Panje, they have asked the Maharashtra government to immediately declare it as a bird sanctuary.
“Heavy rains of the past few days have seen the wetlands being fully covered under water,” B.N. Kumar, director, NatConnect Foundation, which has been actively involved in preventing the destruction of the wetland, told Clarion India on Saturday. “And because of this, about 60 mangroves have been chopped off over the last few days. The culprits are testing the waters and awaiting the public reaction.”
But environmentalists, fisherfolk and birdwatchers who are present at the site noted the destruction of mangroves and informed activists including Kumar about the revival of the atrocities on nature. NGOs including NatConnection and Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan (SEAP) have sent an SOS mail to Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and environment minister Aditya Thackeray about the damage being done to Panje wetland. They emphasised the importance of mangrove care to preserve biodiversity. “This is nothing short of being criminal and it is happening in broad daylight,” they informed the chief minister.
According to Nandakumar Pawar, head, SEAP, the environment minister had earlier stopped construction at Panje and the high court appointed Mangrove committee had asked Cidco, the state government agency, to preserve the area. The recent Thane Creek Flaming Sanctuary management Plan (2020-30) covers six wetlands including Panje under its satellite wetland management and conservation plan, drawn on the basis of a scientific study by the Bombay Natural History Society.
Kumar in his letter to the chief minister pointed out that there was an all-out and multi-pronged approach to gobble up the Panje wetland, which is ironically earmarked by Cidco as holding pond to save the upcoming Dronagiri node from floods.” But the government agency denies that it is a wetland, though it has declared it as a holding pond to check floods.
Interestingly, the Navi Mumbai Special Economic Zone (NMSEZ) is the special planning authority for the notified areas in many parts of the satellite city including both the waterfront and the airport at Ulwe nodes. Kumar says the SKIL group, which is the lead consortium member for the NMZEZ, includes equity held by the Reliance Group Investment and Holding Pvt Ltd, part of the Mukesh Dhirubhai Ambani group. Reliance Industries had last year disclosed that it had an agreement with the NMSEZ to develop an integrated industrial township across 4,000 acres.