YARI ROAD: In a rather dramatic change of events, the protest which began on November 22, with nearly 200 residents of Yari Road protesting on the streets to protect the mangroves has now turned into a big political drama as the events have unfolded. The activists fighting to protect the Mangroves reportedly have an audio clip in which the Congress Councillor Vanita Marucha has been allegedly caught saying that she was carrying out dumping in the area. The activist played the audio clip in front of Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam and Aditya Thackery who visited the site on Monday.
Residents have noticed that truckloads of debris are being dumped in the mangroves. They have complained that the dumping has been taking place for a long time now and to add to it, there have been shanties mushrooming there, further killing the mangrove area. The residents, in the past, have complained about it to the police and also the concerned authorities but nobody took any action. Due to inaction, the residents hit the street last weekend to save the environment.
Clarifying on the debris dumping, Vanita Marucha has however said that she is not involved in this in any way. She however agrees to have had a conversation with Tariq Patel who has recorded the conversation and presented it to the activists and has claimed that the illegal dumping of the debris in the Mangroves has been carried out by Tariq Patel and not by her. “All the illegal dumping of the debris in the Mangroves is carried out by Tariq Patel and the other Sena workers. They are just trying to frame me in this,” said Vanita Marucha. “Tariq Patel has been dumping debris in the Mangrove area and some other man went there and took my name who I do not even know. So I told Patel that if you are doing it, then let him also do it. I did not know that he was recording it. But he is the one with the help of his political flout, has been carrying out dumping in the Mangroves of Yari Road. If you investigate the matter, you will find that the people involved are Tariq Patel and the other Shiv Sena workers. You won’t find my name anywhere in the matter,” she added.
Tariq Patel on the other hand denied being involved in the matter and has handed over the clip to the activist and claimed that he has nothing to do with the dumping at all. “If you listen to the audio clip, you would get to know the real story. She has clearly admitted to dumping debris in the Mangroves and we have handed over the clip to the police, who will investigate the matter. Everyone has heard the recording, including the local residents who were present on Monday and she has openly agreed to have been dumping debris in the Mangroves.” said Patel.
Shashi Ranjan who lives in one of the adjacent buildings said, “A resident of the area first saw the debris being dumped on the mangroves earlier this week. There were almost 13-14 trucks that kept coming continuously and this is surely not the first time that something like this has happened. There were FIRs made but nobody took any action.” He added that a boundary wall had also been demolished to facilitate entry of the trucks. He said the aim was clear – to fill up the water body to make a plot, destroying all mangroves. “In fact, when we were all gathered there, several people kept making rounds on motorcycles suspiciously close to the site. After our visit, no truck has come till now,” said Ranjan.
Even the Chairman of the standing committee of the BMC, Shailesh Phanse was present at the location on Sunday and agreed that the dumping of debris is illegal and very harmful and should be stopped immediately. “This is a serious issue and should be stopped immediately. I will do everything in my power to stop it,” said Shailesh Phanse.
Activist and Filmmaker Ashoke Pandit, who is also a local resident said, “I believe we have knocked on the right door and at the right time. Now when the bureaucrats and politicians start visiting this place, it will get all the due attention and the issue will be resolved.” He added, “The residents are really worried about this issue and so all of them gathered here and joined us in the protest and we did not give them a prior notice as such. It all happened in one day.”
The police at Versova Police Station have filed a case under the Environment Act and are going to investigate into the matter and check on the audio clip. ”We have received a complaint from the collector’s office. We visited the site; the shanties have also been demolished by the BMC and there has been a case registered and right now we do not want give out any names as such because of the politicians involved or create a controversy. We will soon be acting on the audio clip” said Patil, Police Inspector at Versova Police Station.
Meanwhile, Yuva Sena Chief Aaditya Thackeray, after visiting the spot tweeted, “Spoke to Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam over reports of debris being dumped at the Versova Mangroves. Officers will visit and take action. The Mangroves will be reviewed and necessary fencing around it will be done after the debris has been cleared off by the BMC.” He also thanked the residents for being aware and raising their voice against this.
By Reynold D’sa, PICS: SM Kabeer/MM