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Lush green mangrove zones turned into massive deserts

Uran Mangrove zones are now deserts, ideal for Bollywood shoots!! Greens send tongue-in-cheek letter to IMPPA, CM Thackeray

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Bollywood film makers may not have to go as far as Rajasthan or Dubai for shooting on desert sites. Welcome to Uran across Mumbai harbour!

Lush green mangrove zones have now been turned into massive deserts and sprawling wetlands into barren lands at several places providing ideal shooting locations, environmentalists have said in a tongue-in-cheek letter to IMPPA (Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association).

“With none of the concerned authorities remaining unconcerned over the relentless destruction of the fragile biodiversity, Bollywood producers might as well make use of the man-made deserts and barren lands for their shoots,” said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation.

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“This is no exaggeration as innumerable complaints to the government and the orders from the environment department and even the high court appointed wetlands and mangroves committees have not yielded any results to save nature in Uran,” he regretted.

One has seen the movie makers rushing to Rajasthan (for romantic films like Reshma Aur Shera) or Dubai (for the likes of thriller Yalgaar), Kumar said and pointed out that Uran offers cost-effective shooting sites.

The project sites of JNPT SEZ or Navi Mumbai SEZ are no more mangrove zones. The landfill over the last three years have rendered these into deserts with not a single blade of grass in sight, Kumar said.

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CIDCO, which has all along been neglecting the environment, might as well be the nodal agency for booking film shoot sites, said Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan. He recalled that blockbusters as Rangeela were shot at Navi Mumbai railway stations and construction sites.

Destruction of environment and profit booking at any cost has been the CIDCO motto for some years now, Pawar pointed out and said the so-called city planner might as well look for additional source of income from film shoot sites in Uran.

CIDCO is a 26% stake holder in NMSEZ and has allotted mangrove zones and wetlands to various project proponents. CIDCO has even leased out the Panje holding pond, supposedly part of a flood control mechanism, to NMSEZ. The planner has now gobbled up the holding pond and earmarked it as sector 16 to 28 in the upcoming 2,740 hectare Dronagiri Development Plan, without any Coastal Zone clearance, Kumar said.

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Once the construction starts at Panje – the once flourishing destination for over 1,50,000 birds – the sites can be used for fight sequences by Bollywood producers and directors, Kumar said.

The reckless, unchecked landfill has already been causing unseasonal floods and film makers might as well use these sites for flood related shots, he said sarcastically.

One feels sad that the High Court appointed committees, with all powers at their command, remained mute witnessed to the environment destruction and failed to implement their own orders, said Stalin D of NGO Vanshakti. Obviously, the IAS officers who head CIDCO and JNPT are much more powerful than the Konkan Divisional Commissioner who heads the mangrove and wetlands committees, Stalin said.

The last Lok Sabha election time had given a golden opportunity to land grabbers as they dumped hundreds of truckloads of earth and debris on NMSEZ sites at mangroves at Pagote and wetland at Bhendkhal. The Mangrove committee has ordered restoration of these mangroves and wetland. Yet nothing has changed, Kumar said.

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