The ‘Mangrove Cell’ of the Maharashtra government, will remove around 1,000 houses in the first week of November, 2016, for encroaching notified mangrove areas in the city. “The demolition drive is going to start from the first week of November. We have received all the necessary clearances from the Maharashtra government,” chief conservator of forests and head of the Mangrove Cell of the state forest department, N Vasudevan, said. The Cell can initiate actions, to demolish encroachments on mangrove areas.
“Mumbai has a total of 5,469 hectares of mangrove land, which is notified as a reserved forest. Of this, 2%-3% is vulnerable to encroachments and in many pockets, it has been encroached,” Vasudevan said. Most of the encroachments have taken place in areas like Colaba, Trombay, Malvani and Charkop, the officer said.
“We have sent several notices to the people living there but they have not evicted the premises. The Cell has already identified 4,000 such houses, which have encroached mangrove areas in Mumbai. It had initiated action, following which several houses and constructions were razed. We will start the next course of action from the first week of November, 2016, where another 1,000 houses on mangrove land will be removed,” Vasudevan explained.
“The decision on the eviction drive, was already taken in September, 2016 but it was not implemented, on humanitarian grounds, as the monsoon season was going on,” Vasudevan claimed, adding that the Mangrove Cell has also prepared a technical estimate of Rs six crores, for the construction of a fence in areas across the city which are vulnerable to encroachment. “The construction of the fence will begin in January, 2017 and a sizeable stretch would be fenced, before the beginning of the monsoon season. The maps and routes of the wall have been finalised. The Cell is waiting for the finance department’s approval,” Vasudevan said. The Cell is also planning to use other measures, such as CCTV and satellite-based monitoring, to keep a check on encroachments.
The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms came into effect in 1991, mandating restoration of the mangroves to pre-1991 status. However, there have been incidents of gross violations and the Bombay High Court, in 2005, had issued directives for avoiding further violation of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, the official added.