Aditya Thackeray - stop destruction of environment in the name of development

Aditya Thackeray - stop destruction of environment in the name of development

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Pic: Destruction of mangroves in Navi Mumbai SEZ

January 05, 2020

Shri Aditya Uddhav Rashmi Thackeray

Hon’ble Minister for Environment

Govt of Maharashtra

MUMBAI

Dear Mr Thackeray:

Sub: All round destruction of Environment during the past 5 years in particular – Need for Green Police

Hearty congratulations on being appointed as the Cabinet Minister for Environment and Tourism.

And wish you a very Happy New Year and a successful tenure as the Minister in-charge of very important portfolios.

Aditya ji, you have quite a task to perform but we are confident that you will be able to not only do justice but take stern measures to protect the environment and check crimes against environment by whoever it could be!

We list out some of the issues that need your immediate attention and action:

1.     Aarey Metro carshed: We were happy that you have taken up this cause to save Aarey trees and oppose the construction of Metro carshed in the forest land. As per your pre-election promise, the government must immediately declare Aarey as a forest land, hand it over to the forest department and shift the car shed to another suitable location. Saving the forest is much more important than taking the carshed as a prestige by some Metro officials. Also, the people responsible for the felling of trees overnight must be penalised for their arrogant action.

2.     Mangroves & Wetlands: There has been a wanton destruction of mangroves and wetlands all across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). The ecologically sensitive Uran has borne the brunt of the brutal attack by various project proponents such as Navi Mumbai SEZ, JNPT, JNPT SEZ , NHAI etc., Over 15,000 mangroves have been destroyed at JNPT 4th Container terminal, NH-348 (near Punjab warehouses CFS) and NMSEZ’s Pagote site. Wetlands of as much as 100 acres at Pagote and 150 acres at Bhelkhand – both under NMSEZ - have been destroyed by illegal landfill.

Much of Uran, supposed to be the largest coastal wetlands of Maharashtra, has been turned into a mere dust bowl. Local fishing community and 26 villages are paying price for relentless development that is destroying the ecological balance. Fishermen’s livelihood and their lives are under threat. We request your urgent intervention.

Official response to our RTI applications show very clearly that NMSEZ or its contractors have not taken any permission nor have they paid royalty for digging hills for transporting hundreds of truckloads of soil. At Panje, NMSEZ illegally constructed a massive wall around over 500 acres and even prevented bird watchers and fishermen from entering.

CIDCO also leased out Pagote wetland to NMSEZ. Ironically, CIDCO is 26% shareholder in NMSEZ and hence cannot escape responsibility. Moreover, CIDCO has just drawn a development plan for Dronagiri gobbling up thousands mangroves and hundreds of acres of wetlands and even salt pan plots. CIDCO has also drawn up the plan incorporating NMSEZ areas. CIDCO ought to protect two holding ponds at Karanja and Panje (under Dronagiri node) under CRZ rules as they are mangrove-thick areas. This is confirmed by MCZMA in its affidavit before Bombay High Court. It is a matter of great concern that neither CIDCO, NMSEZ nor JNPT seem to care for the law.

Uran taluka has not witnessed floods even during the worst floods on Mumbai in 2005. But, the landfills and blocking of flow of creek water has already dealt a deadly blow to over 20 villages  which had floods for the first time during this year’s monsoon.

3.     Quarrying at Parsik Hills:  Quarrying of Parsik Hills in Navi Mumbai has crossed all limits allotted to the contractors. The blasting of the hills has stopped following an NGT order but CIDCO was still trying to reopen the issue.

CIDCO now plans to build housing colonies in the forest land. This must be stopped as landslides from the hills, which are now hollow due to relentless blasting for over two decades, can adversely impact the future residents.  The eco imbalance created by quarrying will be further be aggravated if the housing colonies come up there. We request you to instruct Forest Dept not to allow any construction along Parsik Hills. Following our suggestions to declare Parsik Hill quarry sites as protected areas, Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) panned to build to develop the quarry sites as an Environment project.

The civic body must be allowed to do this and the area must be declared a heritage site. Parsik Hills can also be developed as a tourist destination, particularly during the monsoons when we have scenic beauty with waterfalls and lush greenery.

4.     Salt Pans: MMRDA plans to build housing complexes on salt pans between Mulund and Kanjurmarg. This is disastrous and an utter foolish plan, whoever thought of it! Salt pans are also wetlands and they must be protected at any cost.

5.     Green Police: The existing police machinery is inadequate to handle environmental crimes. The force, as it is, burdened with regular crimes. Hence, we had earlier suggested the setting up of a dedicated Green Police. The proposal has been referred to the Home Ministry on Sept 21, 2019 and is pending with them now. We request your intervention and get this expedited.

6.     Anti-Environment projects: Overall, sir, we request your government to take a comprehensive look at the various projects that hamper environment and bring disaster to the people. The River Regulatory Zone, for instance, has to be revived to save the rivers and the people, to prevent recurring floods.

We request you for a meeting at your earliest to take this further.

Thanks and regards.

B N Kumar – Director, NatConnect Foundation

Nandakumar Pawar – Head, Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan

 

 

 

 

                                         

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