Activists have stated that the landfill blocked creek water, which led to flooding in nearby villages recently.
Mumbai: The Election Commission has taken cognisance of complaints regarding the destruction of mangroves during the Lok Sabha polls, when officers could not carry out site inspections due to election duty.
Hundreds of hectares of wetland in the Navi Mumbai Special Economic Zone (NMSEZ) had been reclaimed with landfills between February and April — the election period. Activists have stated that the landfill blocked creek water, which led to flooding in nearby villages recently.
According to environment groups, at least ten lakh mangroves have been affected due to the rampant landfill activity during the election period without mandatory clearances from state agencies.
“We have requested the Election Commission to exempt environment care officers from election duties. The apex election body should consider them like any other emergency service officers. An area equivalent to the size of hundred Azad Maidans could have been destroyed in the landfill,” Nandkumar Pawar, head of Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishthan (SEAP), an NGO working towards wetland conservation, said.
The Election Commission, in its response, said it has taken up the issue at national level.
“We have raised a complaint to the concerned officers. We are also enquiring at the national level,” said an officer from the Election Commission.
In March 2019, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) had entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with NMSEZ to sub-lease about 4,000 acres of land along with associated development rights for Rs 2,180 crore.
RIL had also informed the stock market regulators that it would be responsible for India's first integrated industrial area “for the fourth industrial revolution in Maharashtra.”
The Asian Age had earlier reported that the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority, in a Right To Information (RTI) query, revealed that no permissions were sought for landfills in NMSEZ. The RTI query also revealed that the NMSEZ had not paid any royalty for the soil dug from Uran hills.
Following the intervention of the chief minister on the matter, the Bombay high court-appointed mangrove committee member-secretary Neenu Somaraj carried out site inspection in May. The mangrove committee had taken cognisance of the matter and stated that it would create a report after inspecting the destruction at the site.
However, half of the wetland site is now under debris.
An official from the state forest department said that landfilling was halted after the site inspection. However, the restoration work at the destroyed site has not yet commenced, he said.
“We have also filed an RTI application with the Konkan Commissioner, who heads the mangrove committee; City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), which is the state-run city planning body; and the Maharashtra governmen, seeking details of the destruction and the action taken,” said B.N. Kumar, director of NGO Nature Connect.