Shocked by the rampant felling of trees and further encroachments on the Belapur hill, the local residents of Sector 8B have have now filed fresh complaints with the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) and the forest department.
Radha Khedkar, a resident of Kalpataru Housing Society in Sector 8B, said on Monday: “Not only have several green trees been cut at Belapur hill to build a retaining wall abutting our society, we have noticed that truckloads of earth has also been taken away from here, which will wreck the biodiversity of the hill.”
“The slum dwellers have also been trespassing on the hill to make illegal hutments, although this is a protected green area. Many fire incidents have also occurred here in the recent past — all this confirms the worst-case scenario, that land sharks want to fully encroach on the hill,” she added.
Angry locals rushed to the site on Monday where the retaining wall is being built. They also asked the forest department officials to be present at the spot.
Vishal Dube, an NMMC official from Belapur ward, said: “We have got permission to cut 19 trees at Belapur hill in order to build the retaining wall to stop landslides. We have also intimated the forest department about it.”
However, the locals alleged that a lot many more trees have been destroyed at the spot and they suspect foul play to further aggravate the eco-sensitive situation.
NMMC municipal commissioner, Abhijit Bangar said: “A few Belapur residents of Kalpataru society had earlier met me to express their concern about the adjoining hill. I will check with the civic officials on the reported tree felling. With regards to the earth and soil being ferried out from the hillside, I will check with the department concerned.”
“The last time that NMMC had taken action on encroachments at Belapur hill was in 2016, when Tukaram Mundhe was the civic commissioner. The most glaring question now is that how did the civic body get permission to chop trees there when the tree authority is not fully functional due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is sad to see that only the local residents are worried about saving the environment, while the officials are blindly spending public funds,” RTI activist Anarjit Chauhan said.