India’s largest container port, JNPA, has handed over 814.35 hectares of mangroves under its jurisdiction to the Forest Department for conservation.
Adarsh Reddy, DFO, Mangrove Cell-Mumbai, tweeted that the State Forest Minister, Sudhir Mungantiwar, and forest department officials were present at the event.
Environmentalists, however, are not fully happy with the development as another 100 hectares of mangroves – equivalent to the size of ten Azad Maidans – still remain under JNPA.
The port, which earlier stated that it had no record of mangroves in its area, had admitted in an RTI response to NatConnect Foundation that it had 914 hectares of sea forest, the NGO director B N Kumar pointed out.
JNPA must hand over all mangroves under it and take High Court permission if it needs to divert any more of these plans that act as natural coast guards and carbon sinks and serve as a breeding ground for a variety of aquaculture, Kumar said.
The Bombay High Court nearly three years ago mandated that mangroves should be protected and conserved by the forest department following a PIL filed by BEAG.
NatConnect has pointed out that the process of conservation has been terribly slow as many government organisations such as CIDCO, MMRDA, and even JNPA have dilly-dallied on transferring mangroves to the Forest Department.
CIDCO, for example, claimed on Twitter that it had handed over all mangroves under its jurisdiction in Navi Mumbai, but recent destruction in places like Kharghar and Kamote exposed the false claims.For 180 hectares of mangroves at Kharghar, for instance, CIDCO listed only 18 hectares to be transferred, said Nareshchandra Singh of Kharghar Hill and Mangroves forum.
NGO Vanashati in fact filed a contempt petition at Bombay High Court, drawing attention to the tardy progress in conserving the mangroves despite the court’s order.
Even the State Government and the court-appointed mangrove protection and conservation Committee asked the various agencies and collectors to ensure that the sea plants are handed over to the Forest Department. Yet the government agencies are taking their own time, Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, said.