More than 70 workers from the forest department carried cane baskets with 33,000 mangroves saplings over their heads and walked on barren land in Charkop village, Kandivli on Tuesday.
Over the next few hours, each of them systematically planted the saplings of diverse mangrove species at intervals of 1.5 metres across more than 30 hectares.
In an effort to keep forest land free from encroachments, the forest department, with the consent of the local fishing community, started work on regenerating mangroves in bare patches and along the Charkop creek.
“We are expecting a survival rate of 80%. An assessment will be made after a month and replanting, if needed, will be done after the monsoon season,” said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forest, mangrove cell, adding that the 2005 Bombay high court order had directed the forest department to regenerate mangroves to increase their cover.
While mangroves exist at the periphery of some parts the creek, the new saplings were planted at the border and landwards till the point where water from the high tide reaches.
However, the forest department didn’t have it easy. Locals belonging to the fishing community were initially opposed to the idea of planting mangroves with the contention they will not be able to go fishing in the creek once the mangroves grow or will be displaced.
At present, during low tide, fishermen take their small boats in to the creek to catch small fish and crabs. At other times, the land is used to dry fish.
“Fishing is our only source of livelihood. We feared that once the mangroves grow into trees and become dense, we will not be able to get into the creek,” said Vivek Keni, a local.
This year, the mangrove cell will plant three lakh saplings in four locations across Mumbai – Bhandup, Charkop, Airoli and Gorai.
“Planting mangroves will attract sea birds in the area, which at some point would witness small flocks of flamingos. Mangroves will also help in absorbing pollution in the creek,” said Stalin D of Vanashakti, a non-government organisation.