Last week, Mili Shetty received a frantic phone call from her neighbor, Archana Rane, about a fire in the mangroves at Manori creek.
This is not the first call of its kind for the resident of Charkop, Kandivli (West). Shetty has received numerous such calls for a decade now.
She has been keeping a watch on the green cover in the area and has been responsible for informing the police and fire brigade. Quite the daredevil herself, Shetty has even faced miscreants responsible for destroying the mangroves.
“I came to stay in this place owing to the greenery around. Now, what is left of that are the mangroves which I wish to save” said Shetty, who has been crusading to save the mangroves in Charkop.
Shetty wasn’t always an expert on mangroves. It was the Mumbai deluge in July 2006 that opened her eyes towards these protectors of the shoreline. “Our area wasn’t affected because of the mangroves. It got me intrigued and I started reading about it. Today, I have hundreds of books and journals describing the importance of mangroves” she added.
Lack of awareness, deliberate encroachment, fires and debris dumping has left the area with only 138 hectares of green cover. After running the show single handedly for years, Shetty earned the confidence of her fellow residents and has formed Vikas Samiti dedicated to saving the mangroves.
Fearing a deliberate attempt of sabotage on the mangroves, the people of Sector 8 are always on alert. “Whenever I see a fire or fumes, my first instinct is to inform Mili and the fire brigade” said Rubina Giri, a resident and member of the Samiti. Recently, the Samiti organised a marathon to create awareness among people about the importance of mangroves and were successful in collecting as many as 1,000 pledges.
Rajini Bhatia, a member of the welfare organization, said, “Earlier, people would set the mangrove on fire or dump debris. But things are different today. We are always alert.”