The Andhra Pradesh Government as part of its housing scheme for the poor has geared up to clear 115 acres of port land with mangroves near Kakinada in East Godavari district. Conservationists have been critical of the Government’s move and have approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
Visakhapatnam based Satyanarayana Bolisetty has filed an application with NGT alleging that the AP Government’s construction project under the ‘Navaratnalu – Pedal Andariki Illu’ programme for the purpose of providing houses for homeless under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) Mission by destroying the mangroves is in violation of the provisions of the Coastal Regulation Zone Notifications 2011 and 2019, Forest Conservation Act, 1980, Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and other environmental laws. The Government’s attempt to clear the mangroves is also seen as against the lockdown rules imposed by the central Government.
Responding to the petition, the southern branch of NGT has formed a five-member joint committee to ascertain the alleged destruction of mangroves due to construction projects initiated by Andhra Pradesh Government in Dummulapeta and Parlopeta areas in Kakinada.
The two-judge bench of Mr. Justice K. Ramakrishnan and Mr. Saibal Dasgupta observed that “a letter received from the District Collector, West Godavari, Kakinada as well as the District Forest Officer shows that there were no mangroves/forest in this area and it is a vacant land. The applicant has produced certain Google images to show that the area is covered by mangroves. However, the genuineness of these allegations have to be verified by getting a proper report by a committee to be appointed by this Tribunal.”
Responding to a petition filed by fishermen of the region, the High Court passed an order to maintain status quo. Quoting the HC’s order, the NGT bench said that it is not necessary for the tribunal to pass any further interim order in this matter.
The Jagan Mohan Reddy Government has launched the prestigious housing YSR Housing Scheme on July 12, 2019 and promised to distribute 25 lakh housing pattas in next five years. The Rs 9786 crore grand scheme is run for specific segments and has been made public as YSR Urban Housing Scheme, the YSR Economic Weaker Sections Housing scheme, and YSR Gramin Housing scheme.
These mangroves play an important role in protecting sea shores from erosion, high winds and cyclones. They are strategically located between the land and sea. The Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary has the second largest stretch of mangrove forests in India with 24 tree species. The AP Government in the past has made proposals to make Godavari Mangroves (Mada forests), at Coringa, as a World Heritage Site to the UNESCO. The Government had also sent a proposal to the Centre for identifying the mangroves as a Ramsar Site, a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. The sanctuary also has an 18-km-long sand pit where olive ridley sea turtles nest from January to March every year.
In a similar case in the past, the Bombay High Court had ordered for constructions within the range of fifty meters on all sides of mangroves to stop and asked the district collector concerned to pay a hefty fine for the destruction of mangroves.