Quarrying, encroachments threaten Parsik Hill

Quarrying, encroachments threaten Parsik Hill

Parsik Hill, a precious jewel of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), is a mix of nature, wildlife, scenic beauty, spirituality, religion, environment and adventure.  But it appears that it would not be the same in a decade or so as there is massive destruction of this piece of nature-rich hill spread over Thane-Navi Mumbai belt.

The iconic Parsik Tunnel connects Thane to Kalyan in the MMR and the journey through it is the most interesting and thrilling experience for those travelling beyond Thane station by a local train. The train services through the 1.3-km-long tunnel, which is located between Kalwa and Mumbra, started in 1913. It is the first railway tunnel built in India and is more than 100-years old.

Not only the Parsik Tunnel, but also the Parsik Hill, where the Sahyadri ranges of the Western Ghats end, has its own history and heritage. Several Bollywood films have been shot on the Parsik Hill, which is also famous for its rich biodiversity.

Famous Mumbra Devi temple is located here and it can be seen from the local train as it approaches Mumbra.

One can get a bird's eye view of the plains from the temple as it has been constructed at a considerable height.

But the Parsik Hill is facing a serious threat due to unabated quarrying and encroachments.  From Sion-Panvel Highway, one can see how the hill has been plundered along the Thane-Belapur Road.

The unhindered blasting of the Parsik Hill has led to not only widespread destruction of nature, but also led to massive air pollution, adversely impacting the health of the people living in the vicinity. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board has said that the air pollution levels in the areas around stone crushers of quarries are a hundred times more than  permissible levels.

“Pollution levels are on the rise here, it is several times over the permissible limits,” said activist Sumaira Abdulali, founder of the Awaaz Foundation, an NGO. “The destruction of Parsik Hill is criminal considering its bio-diversity,” she said. A proper audit of requirement of construction material such as sand and stones is required, she added.

As the National Green Tribunal is hearing the issue, quarrying has been stopped for some time now. But the Thane District Collector has allowed three quarries to operate. Activists fear that quarrying may make a backdoor entry sooner or later.
Quarrying in the Parsik Hill was banned during the previous Shiv Sena-BJP saffron alliance government at the instance of Sena supremo the late Balasaheb Thackeray. But later the blasting resumed.

Stalin D, director of NGO Vanashakti, said that quarrying destroys biodiversity and forests and depletes the water table. “The Parsik Hill range has the potential for an excellent venue for eco-tourism and adventure sports. Please save these beautiful forested hill from reckless destruction,” he said. As the dust pollution created by quarrying poses great health hazard for the citizens of Navi Mumbai, the government should immediately ban quarrying at the Parsik Hill, he demanded.

Advocate Godfrey Pimenta, director of Watchdog Foundation, said the illegal quarrying is wreaking havoc on the hill. The only way to save the nature is to ban quarrying urgently.

The City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd  had allotted quarries people some 30 years ago in lieu of land acquired for the development of Navi Mumbai. But these quarries now appear to have changed hands, information obtained by Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishthan (SEAP) founder Nandkumar Pawar, through an RTI application to the Forest Department, shows.

“I find that there is one Yadav and one Patel among the quarry owners,” he said. Most people among the allottees seem to be either politicians or enjoying political patronage. “We cannot stand as mute witnesses to the rampant, careless and criminal destruction”, Pawar said.

“The decades-long quarrying has caused irreparable damage to the environment and the once picturesque hills,” veteran trekker Amit Samant, one of the founders of www.trekshitiz.com, said. “There is a rock formation which is often referred to as nursery rock which has natural grooves and protrusions...and this is ideal to learn rockclimbing and mountaineering here,” he said.

The Mumbai Nature Guide, penned by Sunjoy Monga, mentions about the biodiversity of the hill. It has jackals, hares and mongoose.  The 50-odd species of birds found here include booted eagle, malabar whistling thrush and painted francolin.

The Public Relations Council of India (PRCI), the premier national body of PR, media, advertising, HR professionals and mass communication academicians and students, has embarked on a campaign to draw the attention of all stakeholders to the hazards of  quarrying in the Parsik Hill. The campaign #IamParsikHill and IamDying has been launched on Twitter and Facebook and Youtube. “We will soon work on ground events with mass communication students once the colleges reopen,” said PRCI president B N Kumar.

The campaign has received massive response on social media and several people have signed the online petition to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to ban quarrying in the Parsik Hill and save the nature.
   
SEAP, which raised its concern over the quarrying, has decided to extend its support to the #IamParsikHill campaign. “It is a worthy cause,” Pawar said. “The need of the hour is to maintain green cover for the rapidly developing city and not destruction in the name of development. “Quarrying could be done outside city limits and Parsik Hill digging should never be permitted,” he added.


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