The state’s mangrove cell, set up in 2011 to protect and expand the mangrove cover across the state, seems to be shrugging its responsibility and letting agencies — both government and private — destroy mangroves in and around Mumbai.
A reply to an RTI application has revealed that in 2012-13, the cell received 93 complaints from people informing forest officials about mangrove destruction in the city.
Requesting anonymity, a forest official told dna that of 93 complaints received, only five were converted into cases or First Offence Reports (FORs). Three of the five instances were related to blocking natural flow to mangroves, which the department officials initiated action against.
The response to the RTI application states that the cell had received complaints highlighting the problem from various sources, one of which was from environmentalist Debi Goenka, who complained about destruction of mangroves near Vasai (west).
Similar problems — the dumping of solid waste at Kalwa, Kausa and Mumbra, illegal chawl mafia and officials’ nexus in large-scale construction on the few remaining green patches in Charkop, Kandivli and other places — were also brought to light.
A complaint was received against Ajmera Builders for undertaking illegal construction in protected forest land.
What’s more shocking is that the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, a state agency, is contributing to destruction of mangroves. The development body carried out construction activity on mangroves at Anik-Kurla and the mangrove cell favoured them by delaying the investigation which was supposed to nail them.
Mangroves were also destroyed during the widening of the Mankhurd-Panvel Road and Ghodbunder Road to Vasai Highway.
The official added that earlier there was only one range forest officer to investigate the numerous cases but now one more has been brought on board. However, he said they still lack manpower to verify complaints.
Moreover, they are handicapped as several of these mangroves are on plots which fall under the revenue or collector’s jurisdiction. “The most we can do is bring the issue to the notice of authorities concerned,” said the official.