More than 30 acres of full-grown mangroves are lying dead at the Sewri Bay, a site declared as the Sewri Mangrove Park by the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) in 1996.
According to environmentalists, the destruction of mangroves, some up to 20 feet tall, is a result of pollution “most likely caused” by coking coal, which is being stored a few metres from the wetland on MbPT land Coking coal, which is very soft bituminous coal, is heated to produce coke — a hard, grey, porous material — used to blast furnaces for extracting iron from the iron ore. It is also used in steel-making.
“The coke particles have choked the flushing of tidal water into the roots of the mangroves. The wetland soil may also be turning acidic due to reaction with these particles, causing death of the mangroves,” said Stalin D, project head, Vanashakti, a non-government organisation. “The wetland is being ecologically altered and the damage is massive,” he added.
MbPT officials were unaware of the destruction of mangroves. “No one has brought this matter to our notice. I will ask the chief engineer to carry out an inspection and submit a report soon,” said P Mohanachandran, MbPT’s official spokesperson. The Sewri mudflats are home to flamingoes and migratory birds.