An interim report submitted by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to the Bombay high court last week has confirmed coal stored near mangroves at the Sewri Bay is responsible for the destruction of coastal vegetation.
NEERI’s analysis of soil samples from within 10 metres of the coal storage depot ‘TPX’, revealed that coal particles and debris constituted 12% to 30% of soil content. Soil taken from further away from the coal depot had between 0.2% and 0.8% of coal particles and debris.
The NEERI team also found that coal piles were as high as 40 feet while the fence of the depot was about 10 to 15feet. Heaps of coal fenced in by tin, plastic and tarpaulin, are resulting in excessive coal dust in the atmosphere and the mangroves, the report stated.
Coking coal, which is soft bituminous coal, is heated to produce coke — a hard, grey, porous material — used in blast furnaces for extracting iron from the iron ore.
“It can be visibly seen that large quantities of coal particles and pieces have spread in the soil of the nearby regions, which has become hard over the years. These surfaces are not conducive for mangrove growth as the root system cannot grow,” the report stated.
The HC had directed NEERI to inspect the mangroves on Sewri mudflats last month and to submit a report by June 7. The court had taken suo motu cognisance of a news report in the Hindustan Times on large-scale destruction of mangroves in the area.
Damage to mangroves and carrying out non-forestry activities near mangrove areas is in violation of HC orders.
The land where the mangroves were destroyed belongs to the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT). Ironically, the site was declared as the Sewri Mangrove Park by the port trust in 1996.
Stating that mangroves near TPX coal storage depot located between Reti Bunder and Ghaslet Bunder have gradually died over a period of two to three-and-a-half years, the report has highlighted that majority of the surviving plants are coated with coal particles and could die because their roots are damaged.