On March 19th I along with Janak Daftary of Jal Birdari and Mr. Jagdish Gandhi met MMRDA officials at the site of the retaining wall that is being built next to the Vakola Nala mangroves – follow the picture and details below
The meeting was inconclusive but valuable all the same. As far as I am concerned the meeting the issue no longer remained one of protection of mangroves. The issue is a confluence of three important public interest areas. For far too long mangrove conservation has been considered as an issue which should be left to a few people who ‘understand’ the issue and the issue has nothing of interest for the vast majority. The following three issues should provide clarity:
1) How are decisions taken within the government about issues of public interest? The engineers present for the visit could not answer critical questions beyond a point and their only defense for the wall was that the same had been suggested by CWPRS and IIT-Bombay and they were only carrying out the execution based on the said directives. That any real public good was coming out of it was left for everyone to guess. Everybody who has no interest in mangroves but interest in governance needs to be concerned about the decision making.
2) How is the tax payers money utilised? It is a fundamental premise that funds should not be blown on projects which are unnecessary and should be instead directed towards essential infrastructure and needs. In this case Rs. 2 crores has been spent on constructing a white elephant which is of no use at all. People who cry hoarse about the amount of money Mumbai sends to the Center and how much it gets back in return should first question whether each and every existing rupee being sent in Mumbai is being used wisely or half of it is being siphoned off? Should stopping this leakage be the top priority?
3) Everybody who is interested in the illegal proliferation of slums and a control on the illegal nexus which helps them come up needs to be interested in the issue. From one end of the mangroves dumping is progressing at a slow rate. If not stopped in 5 years you will have no mangroves and in its place a ground avaiable for encrocahment and in in another decade you will have a bursting slum. Public memory being the way it is everybody would forget that this was a mangrove plot which could have been saved with a little bit of vigilance and effort.