Citizens and environment groups cleaned up a trash-strewn stretch of mangroves in Bhandup on Thursday as part of observing World Wetlands Day.
Close to 120 school and college students, along with 50 representatives from environment protection groups, forest department officials and nature lovers, participated in a wetland clean-up drive and removed 5,000kg waste — plastic, discarded footwear and other trash — from mangroves near the Bhandup sewage pumping station along Thane creek.
World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on February 2 to highlight the importance of ecosystems like lakes, ponds, estuaries and creeks that stabilise the coastline, control erosion and hosts plant and animal species. The day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971, along the shores of the Caspian Sea.
“Less than 10% of the garbage strewn at the Bhandup wetlands has been cleared through our efforts and a lot more has to be done. There is an estimated 500 tonnes of plastics and non-degradable waste, which is strewn there,” said Stalin Dayanand, director, NGO Vanashakti. “There needs to be an urgent treatment of waste entering the creek. Sewage and trash being dumped in the sea is washed ashore and gets stuck within the mangrove ecosystem.”
Three colleges- Vidyalankar College, Wadala, VK Krishna Menon College of Commerce and Economics College, Bhandup and Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil College, Navi Mumbai and school students from Vidyadhiraja High School, Bhandup (East) participated in the programme.
Environmentalists said that marine life in creek areas can be devastated if wetlands are not protected. “While there are many laws protecting wetlands, the negligence on the part of citizens and the government to protect them needs to increase. It was surprising to note that the younger generation is much more aware about the significance of wetlands,” said Nandkumar Pawar, head, NGO Shree Ekvira Aai pratishthan.
Forest department officials said they were aghast by the amount of trash strewn at Bhandup. “We will be writing to the municipal commissioners of both Navi Mumbai and Mumbai to install nets at all entry points to the creek where the trash can be accumulated and pulled out,” said Sunil Limaye, chief conservator of forest, Thane, who participated in the clean-up. “The matter is of serious concern as a lot of trash continues to choke mangroves there.”
Meanwhile, about a hundred students and members of NGO Young Environmentalists Programme (YEP) celebrated World Wetlands day at the Airoli creek mangrove nursery, through a mangrove board walk and documented various species of mangroves. “Climate change education is a must for the next generation to help protect our islands from flooding and destruction. There is a need to increase security in these areas too,” said Elsie Gabriel, founder, YEP.
Why Wetlands matter
-Buffer zone between land and the sea
-Biggest carbon sink, larger than Amazonian rain forests. Mangrove vegetation absorbs hothouse gas carbon di oxide from the air and stores it.
-Protects coastal land from erosion
-Shields coasts against cyclones and tidal waves
-Breeding grounds for a variety of marine animals, thus making it vital for the fishing industry