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HindustanTimes Mon,14 Jul 2014

Oil sludge choked roots, likely to spread, say forest officials

Nikhil M Ghanekar, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, February 16, 2013
First Published: 00:56 IST(16/2/2013) | Last Updated: 00:57 IST(16/2/2013)

Oil sludge dumped at mangrove swamps in Mahul village has spread further into the swamp causing the aerial roots to choke, said officials from the forest department, who inspected the site on Thursday and Friday. The forest department is also going to file a preliminary offence report against unidentified persons involved in the illegal dumping.

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“Thankfully, there has been no fresh dumping on the swamps. Our inspection has revealed that an area of roughly 10-15 square meters has been affected by the oil sludge. The sludge has gradually spread across the swamp, affecting the roots and has now dried off,” said Suresh Varak, forester of Mumbai range.  “Some of the mangroves have died because of the sludge and the tidal flushing seems to be spreading the siltation,” Varak added.

According to locals, the dumping of oil sludge had stopped from Sunday after officials from the state forest department’s mangrove cell inspected the site.

Hindutan Times had reported on Monday, how protected mangrove forests in Mahul village, part of the larger swamp spread across 40.42 hectares, had been damaged due to illegal dumping of oil sludge and debris. Dumping or carrying out construction within 50 metres on all sides of mangroves has been banned by the Bombay high court in an October 2005 order.

Experts said that oil spills and the resultant oil sludge impacts regeneration of mangroves adversely. The tidal flushing also increases the risk of the sludge spreading to other swamps in the creek.

Affirming that mangrove regeneration has been the biggest casualty following recent oil spills off Mumbai coast, Deepak Apte, deputy director of Bombay Natural History Society said, “Oil spills or even oil sludge kill young mangroves immediately while the older trees might just survive. Gradually, the oil gives way to tar balls that are found near coasts, spreading the damage to other areas.”


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