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Hindustan Times, 10 Jan 2019

All mangroves in Navi Mumbai under CCTV surveillance by December: Forest dept


To curb destruction of mangroves in Navi Mumbai, the forest department has decided to installed CCTV cameras at all important nodes in the city. The forest officials are surveying areas to install the cameras. If everything goes as per their plans, then entire mangrove cover in the city will be monitored using the CCTV cameras by December, a senior official said.

Mangroves in Navi Mumbai are being illegally reclaimed through debris dumping, which mostly happens at night . Some set mangrove forests on fire. Six fires were reported from various mangroves cross Navi Mumbai in the first three weeks of December (see box).

Prakash Chaudhary, range forest officer, Navi Mumbai mangrove cell, said, “Two cameras were installed near the mangroves at Vashi village along the Sion-Panvel highway last month. It was done to keep tab on miscreants who have been dumping debris at the nearby mangroves. Althought a pilot project, situation improved after the cameras were installed.”

He added the positive resulted have encouraged the authorities install more CCTV cameras in the city.

“Officials are surveying mangroves at Airoli, Ghansoli, Kopar Khairane, Sanpada, Nerul and CBD Belapur. As soon as the locations are shortlisted, we’ll sinatll CCTV cameras. By December, we’ll have network of CCTV cameras that will help us keep an eye on the mangroves in the city,” Chaudhary added.

He said each node will get at least two cameras and the number will increase gradually.

“We are planning to install night vision cameras so that they can capture the miscreants who dump debris at nights. The cameras will be operated through solar power, like we are doing at Vashi now. With the help of internet, we will be able to monitor the cameras both from our branch office at Airoli or at the head office in Mumbai,” Chaudhary further said.

According to the state mangrove cell, there are 1,471 hectare of mangrove forests in government-owned land in Navi Mumbai, which are protected by the law.

After a public interest litigation (PIL) by Bombay Environment Action Group — an NGO in Mumbai — in 2005, the Bombay high court had banned destruction of mangroves across the state and construction within 50m of them. After environment group Vanashakti filed another PIL, the HC banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands in 2014. 

The Bombay High Court in 2010 said that no non-forest activity can be permitted in the areas where mangroves grow, even if such areas have not been yet declared as 'protected forests'.

The activists from the city has welcomed the move. Manish Sharma, 43, an activist from Nerul said, “It is a great move as far as the protection of the mangroves are concerned. Two to three cameras in a node may not be sufficient. But we can understand that the forest department has also limitations. The number of cameras can always be increased in accordance with the requirements.”

Sudhir Kulkarni, 52, another activist said, “The miscreants in Navi Mumbai are getting emboldened as most of them manage to get away by committing the crimes. Now with the CCTV cameras in place, they will not dare to dump debris or set the trees on fire. If nothing much, the number of such activities will plummet. We are glad with this move.”  

Recent fires at mangroves

December 3: A fire broke out in mangroves at Ulwe.  It came to light after Shubhangi Tirodkar, a resident and nature lover, spotted a few miscreants setting fire to dry grass near mangroves. 

December 7: A fire was reported from the mangroves along Palm Beach Road in Nerul. The fire charred around 10 mangrove trees.

December 10: Fire burnt a few mangrove trees near the Vashi railway station.

December 11: A massive fire broke in some dry grass on a plot adjacent to the mangroves at Nerul. It was doused before it reached the mangroves.

December 16: Another fire broke out on the same plot (of December 11). It was also doused before it reached the mangroves.

December 20: Over a dozen mangrove trees were charred in a fire that broke out in the mangrove along the Ulwe creek.


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