‘Builders’ greed for space cut forests by 50%’

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE - Badri Chat­ter­jee

MUM­BAI Arvind Untawale, ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary of the Man­grove So­ci­ety of In­dia, a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion formed in 1990 that works to­wards the preser­va­tion of ex­ist­ing man­grove forests, high­lights the main rea­son for the de­struc­tion of man­groves in Mum­bai. de­stroyed is for the con­struc­tion of houses. There are mas­sive apart­ment build­ings to­day that stand amidst thick man­grove cover af­ter re­ceiv­ing all clear­ances from the state govern­ment. While the rest of the state is try­ing to pro­tect its man­grove cover through var­i­ous aware­ness ac­tiv­i­ties, Mum­bai has lost more than 50% of its man­grove cover through the builder­politi­cian nexus in the past 16 years. Var­i­ous NGOS and cit­i­zen groups have been reg­u­larly go­ing to court to stop these vi­o­la­tions. How­ever, this has only made the builder lobby cau­tious and led to covert ways of de­stroy­ing man­groves. The only pro­tected ar­eas in Mum­bai are Thane creek, Vikhroli and parts of Va­sai creek. Even af­ter a land­mark judg­ment by the Bom­bay high court in 2014, which banned the de­struc­tion of man­groves, the laws still have not been ef­fec­tive. The govern­ment is very cau­tious in im­ple­ment­ing those court or­ders be­cause they de­stroy the op­por­tu­nity of any un­der-the-ta­ble deals with the builder lobby. The ex­am­ples can be

clearly seen through projects such as the coastal road get­ting en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ances. It is solely the state govern­ment’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to in­crease vig­i­lance for wide­spread man­grove de­struc­tion cases in Mum­bai and make sure that a re­peat of the 2005 del­uge does not hap­pen. Aware­ness lev­els have in­creased only be­cause of NGOS and cit­i­zen groups fight­ing to save man­groves not only in Mum­bai, but Ma­ha­rash­tra also. If there is pres­sure from the ci­ti­zens, the govern­ment will be forced to take steps in the right di­rec­tion

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