Over the next few months, the state government will announce a slew of measures to protect mangroves that act as buffers along the city’s coastline.
For the first time, the forest department will issue a notification listing out certain activities that will be prohibited inside mangrove forests by the month end. Any violation will invite punishment under the Indian Forest Act 1927 that includes one year imprisonment or a fine of Rs 2,000 or both. The state is also mulling over a comprehensive legislation for the protection of mangroves along the 750 km coastline in Maharashtra.
“Prohibition will mean a ban on some activities because certain trees need to be reserved in protected forests. For instance, cutting specific mangrove species and associated trees or debris dumping, constructing bunds will be among the prohibited activities,” said a senior official from the forest department who did not wish to be named as he is not authorised to talk to the media.
In 2005, the Bombay high court ordered a ban on the destruction of mangroves in Maharashtra without specifying prohibitory activities and banned construction activity within 50 metres of such areas.
“We need to protect mangroves in non-forest land (private land) and prescribe incentives to those owners who conserve mangroves on their land,” said Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary, forest department.
Even as the state is set to introduce yet another rule, forest officials are promising some activity on the ground to man the coastal vegetation.
From September, a speed boat will be anchored alongside numerous boats at the Gateway of India. The state mangrove cell has bought two speed boats that will bolster patrolling of mangroves around Mumbai, Thane creek, Navi Mumbai, Dahanu and Alibaug as well as on the Sindhudurg coast. The speed boat for Sindhudurg will be anchored in Malwan.
At present, the cell is in the process of hiring six personnel for patrolling and navigation purpose. “Several mangrove areas are inaccessible from land. The speed boats will help us visit sites where mangroves are destroyed or monitoring the pollution levels in the Thane creek that is endangering the mangroves,” said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests, mangrove cell. “It will also help observe rare mangrove species and marine life or even in collecting plant samples for a study.”