Mangrove destruction under JNPT - Yet, Port in denial mode

Under greens’ pressure, JNPT drops Mangrove Eco Park project

To handover sea forests for conservation

JNPT has been fined Rs one lakh by the Forest department for killing 4,500 mangroves in its container terminal-IV project.

MUMBAI: Under pressure to hand over mangroves under JNPT to the Forest department for conservation, the country’s largest container port has dropped the idea of building a mangrove park at Belpada in Uran, response to an RTI application shows.

JNPT had proposed the Mangrove Park in consultation with the State Mangrove Cell which in turn directed the port to the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM). The port authorities had even proposed an MoU with FDCM.

JNPT itself informed NatConnect in its response to an RTI query from the latter that the Mangrove EcoPark feasibility was being studied in consultation with the FDCM.

Environmentalists, however, opposed the JNPT project on the ground that the port itself has been of destroying mangroves and wetlands and that it should leave the sea forests alone. In fact, JNPT has been fined Rs one lakh by the Forest department for killing 4,500 mangroves in its container terminal-IV project. In fact, NatConnect asked FDCM: “Is the Eco Park on buried wetland and mangrove zone justified?”

NatConnect and Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan have been complaining to the government that JNPT has also been burying mangroves for its SEZ project and presented pictures of how lush green zones been converted into virtual desert lands. Moreover, the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) has confirmed in its RTI response to NatConnect that the JNPT SEZ does not have CRZ clearance.

“It is in this backdrop that we wanted to know the details of the Mangrove EcoPark,” said NatConnect Director B N Kumar who moved the Forest Department seeking details of the project.

Kumar said “we wanted to know if the Eco Park project is viable after the destruction of thousands of mangroves and vast stretched of wetlands, including the one at Belpada and Sawarkhar”.

The FDCM’s Thane divisional office has responded saying that the mangrove park idea has not been approved and hence no further information was available.

FDCM also appended a letter from the JNPT that the port authorities have decided not to enter into an MoU for the Mangrove Park as the process of handing over all mangroves under it to the Forest Department has started.

Initially, JNPT dilly-dallied on mangrove count under its jurisdiction, but subsequently admitted in its RTI response to NatConnect that it has over 913 hectares of the sea plants under it.

On a query from Mangrove Cell for handing over the mangroves as per the Bombay High Court judgement of September 2018 to protect all mangrove forests, JNPT said it would transfer the sea plants after a high-resolution mapping by Maharashtra Remote Sensing Application Centre (MRSAC).

Kumar has expressed his happiness that all mangroves under JNPT would now be conserved.

Nandakumar Pawar of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan said JNPT must be made accountable for the environmental destruction, particularly the mangroves and mudflats in Uran, that has impacted the livelihoods of the fishing community.

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