MUMBAI: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has referred to the Environment Department an SOS sent by green activists and fishing community to stop sacrificing a whopping 54,000 mangroves in Mumbai for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train project.
Knocking the doors of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to save the vital sea plants, the activists pointed out: “Imagine, we will be losing mangroves equivalent to the size of fine-and-a-half Azad Maidans (of Mumbai),” the activists said and asked the government to look for alternative options to killing the mangroves.
Maharashtra Transport Minister has earlier conformed to the state legislative council that 54,000 mangroves will be razed for paving the way for the high-speed train.
The PMO has now referred the plea to Union Environment Department’s scientist Mahender Phulwaria who will respond with action take report, said petitioner B N Kumar, director of the Nature Connect, and expressed the hope that the mangroves will be saved.
“It is just not the question of killing plants as mangroves are not like any plants. They act as a buffer between the sea and the coast. They also serve as breeding ground for fish. Thus, they act as the basis source of survival for hundreds and thousands of fishing community,” the green groups The Nature Connect and Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishtan (SEAP) said in their separate petitions to the PM and CM. Fishermen’s group Paaramparik Machhimar Bachao Kruti Samiliti also joined the protest to defend their constitutional right to practice their traditional business.
“As it is there has been a massive destruction of mangroves in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and there is no sign of replantation,” said Kumar and remarked: “Thankfully, at the intervention of the CM and the High Court appointed Mangrove Committee the burial of wetlands and mangroves under Navi Mumbai SEZ has been stopped but not before much damage has been done to the ecology.”
“The various project proponents and even the authorities are experts in promising replantation by five times the trees cut, but in practice the process is a big zilch,” said Nandakumar Pawar, Head of SEAP.
In another case of so-called replantation for cut mangroves, CIDCO planted terrestrial trees at Roha instead of the sea plants! And the fact that came out of an RTI application is that the survival rate of these terrestrial plants is also near zero, Pawar said.
In Mumbai itself, the forest department planted mangroves on rocky areas at Charkop and Bhandup and in both the cases the money went down the drain as none of the mangroves planted did survive, he said.
Concurring with this, Kumar remarked: “It is not good enough to assure that the government will plant five times the trees that will be cut. Where and how will the government find place and plants to cover an area equivalent to 27.5 Azad Maidains to compensate for the razing of 54,000 mangroves for the Bullet Train?
The thumb rule is that about a thousand mangroves cover a hectare and Azad Maidan is supposed to be a ten-hectare ground.
Pointing out that the fishing community has been a silent sufferer of the so-called infrastructure development, Tukaram Koli of Paramparik Machhimar Bachao Kruti Samiti said: “we have lost our source of survival and the sad part is the government does not seem to bother about us. This development is destroying our lives instead of doing any good for the community.
“Our community has already lost quite a few sources income, be it at Uran or Worli. And this Bullet Train is going to run over us,” Koli lamented.
The environment groups also questioned the official argument that the government will plant five times the mangroves cut. Hundreds of thousands of mangroves have been destroyed by JNPT at Container Terminal-4 and NHAI at Punjab warehouse CFS in their works at Uran and this has been recorded by the High Court appointed Mangrove Committee which has even penalised JNPT.
“In both cases we do not see any signs of replantation though in just these two cases in which mangroves equivalent to the size of one Azad Maidan have been razed,” Kumar said and argued that there has been no sign of any plantation other than wanton destruction.
“Mangroves cannot be planted anywhere and everywhere. They need marshy land and tidal waters and this basic fact which is often sadly ignored,” said Pawar and called for a high level inquiry into the mangrove replantation record and take corrective measures.