10 trees charred in fire at Palm Beach Road mangroves

A minor fire was reported from the mangroves along Palm Beach Road in Nerul on Thursday afternoon. The fire, which started around 1pm, charred around 10 mangrove trees. Officials said it was the first such incident of the year at Palm Beach Road.

Arun Bhoir, fire officer for Nerul, said, “We rushed to the spot with one fire engine and five officers. The fire was brought under control immediately. The mangrove cell was informed about the action taken.”

Although it is the first incident of mangrove fire this year, forest fires destroying green areas in Navi Mumbai are a common sight. In November, authorities reported more than 10 such fires.

Commenting on fire at the mangroves, Prakash Choudhary, range forest officer, mangrove cell, said, “Fire was small. It started at a heap of garbage that came into the mangroves with seawater. We have registered a case and have initiated a probe.”

Sunil Agarwal, 55, a resident of NRI complex who has been fighting for the past three years to save the mangroves, said fires damage flora and fauna in the area.

“The area is a fishing ground for local fishermen. Their livelihoods will vanish if mangroves are destroyed. A probe is necessary to ascertain the cause fire, whether it was an accident or a deliberate attempt to destroy the mangroves.”

The mangrove patch which caught fire is surrounded by plush housing society in the vicinity and is one of the prime locations on Palm Beach Road.

“Debris dumping is rampant where the fire was reported from. There are people who frequent the area in search of dry wood,” said Hitesh Raj, 36, a Nerul resident. “These people burn dry grass to access the mangroves. The fire could be an outcome of their activity.”

A similar incident was reported from Ulwe on December 3. It came to light after Shubhangi Tirodkar, a resident and nature lover, spotted a few miscreants setting fire to dry grass near mangroves. Tirodkar has been living in at Sector 15 of CBD Belapur since 1982 and has witnessed the loss of green cover over the years.

“The mangrove area of Ulwe from CBD Belapur side is visible and I keep a strict vigil. This helped in saving mangroves from destruction. When I visited the area, I saw dry grass was stacked at several locations in the mangrove. It was being done to set the mangrove on fire to reclaim land. I am not against development, but not at the cost of environment,” she said.

Tirodkar has asked all her friends to be vigilant and report suspicious people and activities. She is using social media to spread the message.

First Published: Dec 07, 2018 00:25 IST

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