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No civic-watch on Belapur’s watch tower

Friday, February 17, 2017
By Sonali Telang

After the proposed hacking of more than 800 trees for widening of Amra Marg, the highway road in CBD Belapur, activists have resolved to save the heritage and greenery of Belapur Fort. To augment the beautification process, the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) has proposed to demolish the watch tower, a part of the 16th  century old Belapur Fort. Locals and activists fear that in the wake of development, the civic body and concerned authorities have failed to identify and restore the ancient heritage of Navi Mumbai.

“Our team members communicated with the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India), the fort and the watch tower till date has no mention in heritage list. The deputy director revealed that this tower and the fort earlier had 11 battle tanks. Where have they gone? The government is ready to spend Rs 3,600 crores for erecting the statue  of great warrior of Maharashtra but what about restoring the old monuments of the city!” said Arati Chauhan, a tree activist from Nerul.

The watch tower, at Kille Junction, lies opposite to the headquarters of NMMC. The tower also  harbours  ancient banyan and peepal trees which are now seen with notices of  felling  pasted on them. “Rather than maintaining the green cover around the fort, they (NMMC) have decided to eradicate them. The trees are in no way a hindrance to the highway. There  is  only one such monument and few over 100 years old trees left in Navi Mumbai. Instead of preserving and utilizing them, we got to know that they will be demolished,” remarked Chauhan.

Tree Authority of NMMC has granted permission to National Highway Authority of India to cut 171 trees while 671 trees will be replanted. However, locals assert that around 1,000 trees are going to be affected. A nearby garden, spread across 11,400 square meters is also proposed to be demolished in the process. The garden was earlier built at the cost of Rs 23 lakh. According to the Additional Municipal Commissioner Ankush Chavan, a flyover is proposed at the site for connecting Nerul to Uran.

“The incomplete bridge that comes from  Ulwe  was made long back. The garden was made recently. So when a national highway was already decided, why was the garden made in the first place? It is a sheer example of wastage of tax-payers' money. Moreover, around 120 royal palm trees and several Ficus plants stand in the park, they have already poured chemicals to loosen the roots. More than 200 Areca Palm trees are present there, but the notice shows only 111,” added Chauhan.

The locals have also pointed out the random numbering of trees in the garden while stating that half of the area has already been cleared. However, NHAI has proposed to replant the trees in the park, referred as 'Jewel of Navi Mumbai' in Nerul. Jewel of Navi Mumbai “The notices fixed on the trees had no mention of dates. No last date was declared to submit citizens' objections and suggestions. Also, the replantation plan has never gone well with the trees. Yet, they have cleared the trees indiscriminately. We fear that they will demolish the fort the same way,” said Rajeev Mishra, a nature activist from Ghansoli.

“Rather than maintaining the green cover around the fort, they (NMMC) have decided to eradicate them. The trees are in no way a hindrance to the highway. There is  only one such monument and few over 100 years old trees left in Navi Mumbai. Instead of preserving and utilizing them in landscaping, we got to know that they will be demolished.”
— Arati Chauhan, Tree Activist from Nerul.

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