Fresh shoots and small mangrove plants are growing at various locations at the Sewri Bay where 30 acres of the coastal vegetation had been found to be destroyed last year from contamination by coking coal stored nearby.
But environmentalists said the growth of the new plants in the absence of a single mid-sized tree measuring five feet is a sign that there's a long way to go before one can term the growth "regeneration".
"We will have to see if the two-feet-tall plants survive, grow and develop breathing roots above the ground, which are essential for the healthy growth of the plant. In any case, it will take at least three years for mangrove regeneration at this site," said Stalin D of Vanakashti, a not-for-profit. "The plants may die because of excessive coal contamination."
Last year, Vanashakti had filed an affidavit in the Bombay high court countering a claim made by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority that mangroves in Sewri are dying because of blockage of tidal water.
While the large mounds of coal at the site have been restricted uniformly with bamboo that is sturdily holding the tarpaulin around the depot, the height of the fence is not as much as the piles of coal.
"The coal depot has to move out of the area if mangroves really have to get regenerated. The coal is also stored in zone 1 of the Coastal Regulation Zone, a violation of the environment laws," said Stalin.
According to an interim report submitted by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to the Bombay high court last year, coal stored near the mangroves at Sewri Bay was responsible for the destruction of the coastal vegetation.
In February last year, HT had reported that large tracts of mangroves had died from the pollution. The court took suo motu cognisance of this. Damage to mangroves and carrying out non-forestry activities near them is in violation of the HC orders.