Two years after an oil spill off the Mumbai coast contaminated dense mangrove vegetation around the city’s shoreline, no new mangroves have grown in the affected areas.
Mangroves are crucial to a coastal city such as Mumbai as they act as a buffer against erosion of the coast and as a sponge to prevent flooding in the city. They also form the breeding ground for marine life.
A report, ‘Study on the impact of oil spill on the mangroves of Mumbai and Raigad coast’, prepared by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) states that the presence of oil in the soil is preventing mangrove seeds from germinating. The report was submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests in June.
“Seeds are getting contaminated because of the presence of oil in the soil. Hence, mangrove seedlings will not survive owing lack of oxygen in the soil for the roots,” said Deepak Apte, assistant conservation director, BNHS and principal investigator for the report.
“When seedlings do not survive, its consequences can be seen continuously for two to three years and it could affect the mangrove eco-system. There has been no recovery process in the last two years,” said Apte.
Except two locations, Mand-wa and Rewas, which have low oil content, there has been no regeneration of mangroves in eight other sites despite seeding in two seasons. The worst-affected sites include Colaba, Vashi, Sewri, Uran, Sasawane and Gharapuri Isle (Elephanta Island). The report recommends immediate afforestation.