NAVI MUMBAI: Environmentalists have protested over the resumption of landfill on mangroves and wetlands under Navi Mumbai SEZ in Uran with the contractors taking advantage of the absence of official surveillance due to the current lockdown.
The Bombay high court appointed Mangrove and Wetland Committee had earlier halted the landfill by NMSEZ at Pagote and Bhendkhal, while the state environment minister Aditya Thackeray asked for stopping construction at Panje wetland by the project.
B N Kumar, director of NGO NatConnect Foundation, said he has moved the HC committee and the state government to stop the landfill forthwith. “We have also sought details of permissions, if any, granted to NMSEZ for the landfill,” Kumar said and pointed out that such construction requires coastal zone clearances. The high court has explicitly banned the killing of mangroves.
The halting of construction by the HC panel and the government clearly shows that the landfill is illegal, NatConnect said.
Scores of dumpers carry earth and debris to bury mangroves and waterbodies and quietly level the landfill during the night, while presenting a ‘quiet scene’ during daytime, said Dilip Koli of traditional fishing community Paramparik Machhimar Bachao Kruti Samiti.
The landfill is a deja vu of the burial done elsewhere at Pagote mangrove zone and Bhendkhal wetland, said Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishthan. “The local contractors appointed by NMSEZ do the landfill just for a few bucks and ignore the long-term environmental impact on their own land,” Pawar regretted. This obviously suits the project proponents’ purpose, he said.
People are already suffering due to the recurring unseasonal floods due to the reckless, rampant landfill forcing the tidal waters to find their course, thus inundating the villages and even paddy fields, Pawar pointed out.
The sad part of the landfill racket is that the government’s urban planning agency CIDCO is a 26% partner in NMSEZ. CIDCO throws its hand up its hands when it comes to checking the landfill on the plea that the lands have been handed over to Reliance long ago, Kumar said quoting the minutes of the Mangrove Committee meetings.
NatConnect pointed out that the Forest department, on its part, has been unable to check the destruction of thousands of mangroves in Uran region as the sea plants are yet to be declared as reserved forest despite the government and mangrove committee orders. “While the official agencies remain helpless, it is the nature that has become victim,” Kumar said.