Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, 14 December 2018
State cell clears final hurdle for constructing protective walls with nod from environmental impact assessment authority
The construction of 10-feet walls along vulnerable and environmentally crucial mangrove forests across the city can now begin after the state mangrove cell received its final clearance.
While the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) issued clearances earlier this year, the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) issued its clearance, eliminating the last hurdle before construction.
“We cleared the proposal as the Bombay high court (HC) recommended the need for a wall around mangrove areas. Protecting these trees is of utmost importance for a city like Mumbai where flooding concerns have been there since 2005,” said Johny Joseph, chairman, SEIAA.
The state mangrove cell said they received the details in a letter earlier this week based on the decision made during the SEIAA meeting last month with a few directions.
“Clearances have been issued based on the fact that high-tide water ingress should not be blocked at any cost. We have suggested construction of culverts or under walkways,” said Joseph.
The walls have been planned on the landward side across six locations — Sai Dham Nagar in Charkop; near Lagoon Road in Malwani-Malad; along the Eastern Express Highway in Kannamwar Nagar, Vikhroli; Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Nagar, Colaba; Bhakti Park in Wadala and Shivneri Nagar Mandala, Mankhurd.
HT had first reported last April that Mumbai’s mangroves will be fenced off by the wall, spread across 60km if not continuous and with CCTV cameras for round-the-clock vigilance.
“With all approvals in place, the tendering process will be initiated now. We will be issuing a tender in the next two weeks, and by mid-January, construction is likely to commence,” said Vikas Jagtap, divisional forest officer, state mangrove cell.
There will be two types of walls— a conventional compound wall in areas where the threat to mangroves is less while vulnerable areas will have precast concrete (casting concrete in a reusable mold at one spot and transported to the construction site).
“The precast wall will have slabs placed one above the other, with ducts at the bottom to allow high-tide ingress,” said Jagtap.
N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell said, “We are confident the construction of this wall in highly vulnerable areas will secure mangroves from future encroachments. We will keep a strict vigil post construction through frequent patrolling and CCTV surveillance.”
On September 17, the HC bench of justices Abhay Oka and Riyaz Chagla directed the state to construct a compound wall on the landward side of 50m from the mangrove areas, and police and private guards to monitor it.
“The order helped us tremendously as we do not need to approach the court hereafter for approvals. The cost of constructing the wall is ₹16K a metre, and ₹8 crore will be spent to construct it across six locations and another ₹5 crore has been set aside for other areas,” said Makarand Ghodke, assistant conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.
The petitioner said the mangrove cell needed to remove all dry grass between the forests and the buffer area where the wall needed to be constructed.
“The requirement of this wall is essential for the city. However, what we are witnessing in Navi Mumbai where fires are being purposely lit should not happen during construction,” said Debi Goenka, executive trustee, Conservation Action Trust.