Tirupati Balaji temple row: Mangrove Cell officer suspended | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Tirupati Balaji temple row: Mangrove Cell officer suspended

Sep 30, 2023 08:29 PM IST

Meanwhile, the Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) has asked the State to look into the fresh case of violations presented by green groups

NAVI MUMBAI

Tirupati Balaji temple row: Mangrove Cell officer suspended
Tirupati Balaji temple row: Mangrove Cell officer suspended

In a new twist to the controversial Tirupati Balaji temple plot issue, the Navi Mumbai Mangrove Cell officer who confirmed the presence of the area being a wetland and the presence of wetland has now been placed under suspension.

Round officer Bapu Gadade of the Navi Mumbai Mangrove Cell has been placed under suspension as a “disciplinary action”. Gadade had visited the site along with NatConnect Foundation, the complainant, and other environmentalists and confirmed the presence of the mangroves and wetland there. He has reportedly been suspended for taking wrong measurements.

NatConnect described the suspension as unfortunate and requested the forest department to reinstate Bapu, who was merely confirming the concerns of the environmentalists and locals.

Meanwhile, the Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) has asked the State to look into the fresh case of violations presented by green groups, NatConnect Foundation and Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan have in their emails to the MOEFCC and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde argued that the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) in its CRZ nod has not considered the fact that the temple plot was carved out of a temporary casting yard built by the MMRDA for the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL).

The MCZMA minutes did not reflect any discussion regarding the fact that the casting yard was a temporary affair and that it was built on 16 hectares of mangroves, NatConnect director B N Kumar said. The casting yard was launched in September 2019 and the google earth maps of that period show mangroves, mudflats and intertidal wetlands in the same area, he said.

Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, said even in the current scenario, the temple plot falls within 40 to 42 metres of mangroves from two different sides. This is a buffer zone with no permissible construction whatsoever, he said.

Reiterating that they have nothing against the Balaji temple, the green groups have called for allotting a plot in another area, other than the mangrove and wetland zones.

An MOEFCC official T K Singh in his reply, asked the MCZMA to examine the case and respond.

Pawar said the area used to be a fishing area and the local fishing community used to survive on fishing. Now with the advent of the casting yard, their constitutional right has been snatched away. They were hopeful even now that with the completion of the MTHL work and the winding up of the casting yard, the fishing zone would be restored, he said.

The casting yard facility on over 20 hectares itself was supposed to be a temporary affair as mentioned in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report submitted by MMRDA for obtaining the environmental clearance (EC).

The EC also clearly mentions that the work through the mudflats should finish within 30 months.

“In view of this fresh evidence, we sincerely request you to revisit the environmental clearance given for the MTHL and the casting yard in particular and restore the intertidal wetland and the mangroves,” NatConnect said in its emails to the Centre and CM.

Pawar said the mangroves will rejuvenate on their own without any human intervention once the tidal flow is restored by removing the landfill and massive construction material lying scattered in the area, as pointed out in the mangrove cell report.

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