A joint committee constituted by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to look into the cutting of mangrove forests in the coastal area of Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district for a housing project, has confirmed destruction of nearly 30% of the mangrove area at the site. The committee also directed the district administration not to proceed with the township project and to take “remedial measures” for “rejuvenation of mangroves”.
In its report submitted to the southern bench of the NGT on March 17, the committee observed that out of the total extent of mangroves spread over 116 acres, work has been taken up on 58 acres for “Navaratnaalu-Pedalanadirki Illu” (nine jewels-house sites for the poor) programme, thereby affecting mangroves in an extent of 30% of the filled-up area. The house sites’ distribution programme was launched on December 25, but the preparatory work like identification of sites and levelling of sites began in March 2020.
“The mangrove area also falls under Coastal Regulatory Zone-I area (CRZ-I), which is ecologically sensitive and the geomorphologic features of this zone play a role in the maintaining the integrity of the coast. As per CRZ notification 2011, no new construction shall be permitted in CRZ-I,” the committee noted.
District collector D Muralidhar Reddy, who was also one of the members of the committee, said the government had initiated the process of change in the CRZ category of the said land from CRZ-I to CRZ II, as the land is not a notified forest land, but a waste land as per the revenue records.
The NGT, in its order dated March 18, directed that the district administration should not proceed with further development of the township in the said area till the necessary permissions from the competent authorities are obtained. The tribunal directed that the government take remedial measures for rejuvenation of mangroves and other trees in that area considering the eco-sensitiveness of that area.
“Besides, considering the nature of damage alleged to have committed, the government must quantify the damage caused to the environment taking into account the amount required for re-rejuvenation of the mangroves and loss of green cover and restoration of the same in that area to protect the environment,” the tribunal said and posted the case to April 26.
The committee, however, felt that there is no threat to the existing Coringa Wild Life Sanctuary due to the housing project, which is located at about 3 km away.
The committee was constituted on April 30, 2020, following a petition filed by environmentalist Satyanarayana Bolishetty in the NGT, challenging the state government’s decision to fell and remove mangroves and fill up the land to develop house sites for the poor.
The six-member committee comprises C Palpandi, scientist from ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), K Prijilal, research officer in MoEF, district collector D Muralidhar Reddy, conservator of forests, Rajahmundry, N Nageshwara Rao; District Forest Officer, East Godavari, B Sunil Kumar Reddy and environmental engineer of Andhra Pradesh Coastal Zone Management Authority A Rama Rao Naidu.