Mangroves on over two acres of land in the Kottuli wetlands here were destroyed by miscreants on Monday night.

The destroyed foliage and branches were shifted overnight to hide the plunder from the public. “The ravages were, however, noticed by the people living nearby who pass through the area daily,” N.P. Suneendran, social and environmental worker, said.

The mangroves on the 250-acre eco-sensitive wetlands had come under attack earlier also. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has identified the wetlands to be preserved under the National Wetlands Conservation Programme.

“The destruction is only the latest in a series of several such acts,” Mr. Suneendran said.

This time, however, the attack was planned to perfection to avoid public attention. The offenders not only shifted the mangroves but also covered their stumps with flex-sheets and deposited marshy soil over them to contain their growth. “Such pains taken by these criminals to execute their plans points to the extensive preparations and deliberations they had done,” Mr. Suneendran said.

T. Sobeendran, environmental activist, under whose leadership a protest meeting was convened at Arayidathupalam, near the wetlands, said such illegal and environmentally insensitive acts were being repeated because of the weak stand taken by the authorities.

“This would not have happened had the authorities taken some strict action when it occurred in the past,” Prof. Sobeendran said.

Activists, local people and government officials visited the site on Monday morning. Kottuli village officer T. Prasad told The Hindu that he had sent a detailed report to the District Collector, the Tahsildar and the Revenue Divisional Officer seeking strict action.

He said the land where the plunder had taken place belonged to an individual. “This stretch of land, lying close to the busy Mavoor Road, had undergone quite a few transactions of late,” Mr. Prasad said.

The environmental activists and representatives of socio-political organisations here have taken this assault on nature and the fragile ecosystem of the wetlands, especially at a time of acute water shortage, seriously. “We are not going to tolerate such aggression any more, whoever is supporting or protecting such criminals,” Mr. Suneendran, general secretary of the environmental collective Samskriti, said. “We are planning agitations to bring this issue to the attention of the authorities.”

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