The CIDCO is the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra. It is an Indian city planning agency. It is the richest government authority in India. It is formed and controlled by the Government of Maharashtra. The CIDCO is the land use and urban development authority in Navi Mumbai.
The shore-based Training Ship Chanakya, now an Indian Maritime University, is situated on the banks of a lake called NRI (Non-Resident Indians) lake as the NRI colony is also located near the lake. The Chanakya is surrounded by mangroves where many birds come.
On December 13, 2023, Seema Tania, a bird watcher, spotted a few dead mangrove trees near the lake, also known as Chanakya lake. Initially, Seema thought that only a few trees were being cut down. The next morning, however, she went back only to find out that a 2-kilometer stretch of mangroves had completely razed overnight, only one tree left uncut. She immediately put up a few pictures on a WhatsApp group of bird watchers. The news traveled soon on social media.
A group of citizens filed a complaint with the State’s Mangroves Conservation Committee and Mangroves Cell of the state. But both the committees passed the responsibility for the destruction from one government agency to another. The delay prompted a protest march led by citizens, on 24 December, 2023 – the first of many, conducted every Sunday, under the banner ‘Chalo Chanakya’.
The lake is a protected area as per the order of the Bombay High Court. Tidal-affected, Chanakya lake, covering an area of 14.74 Ha and the surrounding Mangroves come under the jurisdiction of CIDCO. Despite the Bombay High Court directing CIDCO to transfer all the Mangroves in its possession to the Mangroves Cell of the Forest Department, CIDCO has so far refused to do so and is now flouting the High Court’s order by expressing its desire to allot it to private builders and developers, environmentalists say.
In the ongoing battle to preserve the TS Chanakya wetland and Mangroves, the ‘Chalo Chanakya’ citizens’ movement marked its 6th edition on January 28, 2024. The peaceful yet impactful protest witnessed a significant turnout, with notable figures from society, students, and residents joining forces against the human-induced devastation of Navi Mumbai’s Chanakya wetland and adjacent areas.
Recently, an FIR (No. 15/2024) was registered at the NRI Police Station for the alleged killing of Mangroves, sparking an investigation under section 15(1) of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986. In response to these challenges, the participants of the protest collectively called for immediate government action: A. Hand over all wetland, mentioned in the National Wetlands Atlas, to the state wetlands authority. B. Expedite the transfer of the remaining Mangroves to the Mangroves Cell. C. Advocate for the punishment of culprits, including builders and officials involved in the conspiracy to destroy Mangroves for personal gain. D. Call for the arrest of officials responsible for permitting 17 buildings on Chanakya Lake, disregarding the Bombay High Court Order protecting the lake.
Sunil Agarwal, the founder of Save Navi Mumbai Environment Group, announced that these critical issues will be further addressed on a larger platform during ‘Run for Flamingos Season 3’ scheduled for February 11, 2024, urging participants and Navi Mumbai residents to register and show their support.
“Vigilance is the price of democracy,” it is said. Here, the vigilant citizens have shown courage and determination to save Mother Earth!