Weeks after the state mangrove cell released a report highlighting a 133-hectare increase in the mangrove cover across 11 locations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), Navi Mumbai residents have alleged that five hectares of mangrove forests have been cleared illegally by the sand mining mafia.

A fishermen’s group named Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishthan (SEAP) filed a complaint with the state’s wetland grievance redressal committee and the Konkan commissioner on Thursday, alleging that over 1,000 mangrove trees were hacked and sand was being excavated illegally using suction pumps in an area near a creek between Khandeshwar and Mansarovar railway station.

“Rampant mangrove destruction is taking place in several areas in Navi Mumbai since the construction of the airport began,” said Nandkumar Pawar, head of SEAP. “Losing this much of ecologically-sensitive areas will be disastrous not only for fishermen, but will also lead to severe flooding during heavy rain and high tide water ingress. The sand excavation will lead to erosion.”

The state’s wetland grievance committee said they had taken cognisance of the complaint. “We are in the process of drafting a detailed letter to the Raigad collector attaching the complaint and asking for an action taken report. The matter will be discussed during the committee’s meeting this month,” said J R Gowda, deputy conservator of forest, state mangrove cell and secretary of the grievance committee.

HT visited the site during low tide on Friday morning and found many mangrove trees either uprooted or chopped at their base. Sand was heaped on either side of the creek. There were also parked boats with sand excavation machinery in them.

There is a group that admitted to carrying out sand mining activity in the area but its leader, Prem Yadav, denied the fishermen’s allegations. “We have not destroyed any mangroves. Some of the trees could have been destroyed while parking our boats. However, we have been removing sand for the past two months using machines from the creek with permission from the Raigad district administration,” he said.

However, the Raigad district administration said no permissions have been issued across the district for mechanical sand dredging and asked HT to share a copy of the complaint. “Prima facie, this is a large scale violation. Our officers will visit the site to take stock of this,” said Vijay Suryawanshi, collector, Raigad district. “Such cases of mangrove destruction followed by sand excavation are being witnessed in Raigad. We have already confiscated vehicles and 60 suction pumps from an area within MMR.”

First Published: Sep 08, 2018 00:24 IST

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