Saturday, January 4, 2014

RWA ‘grabs’ 100m Juhu beach stretch


MUMBAI: A vast stretch of the iconic Juhu beach has been seeing allegedly illegal landfilling with boulders and earth by none other than local residents themselves.
Juhu Citizens' Welfare Group (JCWG), comprising local activists, has angered other residents' groups as well as the Bombay high court-appointed Juhu beach monitoring committee by dumping 80 truckloads of boulders, rocks, stones and earth to landfill an enormous sandy stretch. It has covered a length of 100 metres of the beach without requisite permission from concerned authorities, especially the monitoring panel that came into being in March 2003.
This stretch of the beach, a major tourist attraction, also falls under Coastal Regulatory Zone (1) and dumping of rocks is in gross violation of CRZ rules, says architect PK Das, member of the monitoring panel.
"The question is not about checking beach erosion. It's a high-tide line and rocks are being dumped on a sandy beach. In any case, the court has banned land-filling to check sand erosion. This act would amount to prosecution and even arrest," says Das.
Ashoke Pandit, convenor, Save Open Spaces, has complained to the collector and other concerned authorities against four members of JCWG and sought removal of boulders.
Anil Desai, treasurer, JCWG, though, said the boulders were put up after consulting the suburban collector. "Some severe sand erosion has taken place on the beach last year. We are only taking preventive measures by dumping rocks. All authorities are aware of this, including the collector who has visited the site. All residents and societies have contributed Rs 6-7 lakh for dumping the boulders. Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) is also involved," said Desai.
When contacted, suburban collector Sanjay Deshmukh denied granting any permission to JCWG. "We did not give any permission. Only the HC-appointed committee can issue permissions. We visited the site and told residents that MMB will check erosion by pumping in its funds. They just went ahead and dumped rocks on their own," said Deshmukh.
Desai said residents had consulted IIT-Bombay and proper gabions were installed with wire mesh boxes, which are 1m on all sides. Currently, a board has been put up warning visitors of trucks to dump boulders. "Then, the earth-moving equipment is brought on the beach and rocks are picked up and placed at correct spots."
Pandit said checking sand erosion was the government's job. "Individual citizens' groups cannot get permission to do work on their own and spend from their pockets. It's an absurd kind of vandalism, other than violation of CRZ norms."

Government agencies cannot sit idle when Mumbai's most-visited beach is in danger. Surreptitious encroachment of mangroves, away from public gaze, is one thing; but ignoring something that is happening out in the open, at a place visited by thousands, is akin to encouraging the land-grab. Government agencies need to step in right now.