SUBJECT :December 2014 - Mumbai-1 

 Residents blow the whistle on mangrove destruction

1 Dec 2014,Hindustan Times (Mumbai)

New Link Residents’ Forum fighting for wetlands in Dahisar and Gorai

MUMBAI: In the years following the Bombay high court’s (HC) landmark 2005 order, declaring mangroves as protected forests, awareness among Mumbaiites about their worth was still rudimentary.

PHOTO: NEW LINK RESIDENTS’ FORUM Members of the New Link Residents’ Forum, Dahisar.

In the absence of an active administration, several likeminded citizens took up the responsibility of protecting the mangroves. The New Link Residents’ Forum, Dahisar, is one such citizens group that has fought on ground as well as legal battles to save large mangrove swathes in the suburbs of Dahisar and Gorai.

Formed in 2008 to tackle issues of water theft, illegal establishments and street crime, the group consists of residents from 35-40 colonies of New Link Road, IC Colony and Kandarpada.

Fighting the destruction of wetlands by the vast slum sprawl of Ganpat Patil Nagar has been one of the mainstays of the group.

Situated adjacent to the Gorai creek, more than half of the 8,000 slums in Ganpat Patil Nagar had eaten into the mangroves area. At the same time, illegal parking of buses by tour operators was also posing a threat to the wetlands.

“These are notified mangroves and wetlands that are spread across 50 acres. Since 2008, we have put sustained pressure on the authorities to take cognisance of the encroachments. Even the slums are at risk as they are too close to the sea during high tide,” said Harish Pandey, a member of New Link Road Residents’ Forum.

In 2009, the residents’ forum began a two-year struggle to save a 400-acre choking mangrove swamp near Gorai creek. A developer had illegally constructed bunds that were blocking the seawater.

“We kept vigils and complained to all government authorities concerned. We could not stand the rampant destruction of mangroves,” said Dr P Mathew, another member of the residents’ forum.

The forum tasted success when the Supreme Court, in December 2011, asked the developer to pay Rs1.24 crore as compensation for the environmental damage.

Along with non-profit Vanashakti and other citizens groups from Vasai and Bhayander, New Link Residents’ Forum is currently fighting a litigation in the HC to save suburban wetlands from illegal reclamation and encroachments.

In an interim order, the HC has banned reclamation of wetlands and asked state authorities to give a status report on vulnerable sites such as Ganpat Patil Nagar.

“It is only because of the efforts of groups such as New Link Road Residents’ Forum that mangrove stretches are still intact. Left solely to the administration, the wetlands of the city would have been largely destroyed by now,” said Rishi Aggarwal, environmental activist and research fellow, Observer Research Foundation.


The New Link Residents’ Forum was formed in 2008 It comprises citizens living in the localities of New Link Road, Kandarpada and IC Colony The forum has earlier taken up issues relating to environmental causes, water theft, illegal establishments and milk adulteration Recently, the group brought to light two instances of mangrove destruction in Gorai, one involving the Essel Group The group had allegedly encroached upon mangroves for development purposes. The matter was also highlighted in the ongoing wetland reclamation public interest litigation (PIL) and the high court ordered further investigation into the matter In the other instance, mangroves in Gorai were found to be dying as culverts around them were blocked, cutting off the water supply. 

Source: News Papers