The state forest department has confirmed that coking coal stored near the mangroves in Sewri Bay is responsible for the death of more than 30 acres of mangroves, as reported by HT on Tuesday.
Coking coal, which is soft bituminous coal, is heated to produce coke — a hard, grey, porous material — used to blast furnaces for extracting iron from the iron ore, steel-making and power generation.
On Wednesday, a team led by deputy conservator of forest GT Chavan inspected the site, which is located on Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) land.
Chavan said: “The coal stored in the open is entering the mangroves and leaching into the ground resulting in their death. We were told that new mangrove saplings don’t survive beyond six months.”
He is expected to submit a report to the MbPT commissioner and suburban collector today.
Environmentalists had earlier told HT that the damage was most likely caused due to pollution caused by coking coal stored a few metres away from the site. In 1996, the port trust with help from the Bombay Natural History Society had developed the site as a Sewri Mangrove Park.
Damage to mangroves and carrying out non-forestry activities near mangrove areas is prohibited by HC orders. The Sewri mangroves are yet to be declared as protected forests and transferred to the forest department as per a Bombay HC order.
“Unlike other trees, roots of the mangroves are above the ground. If coal particles get into these roots, the trees will not survive. There is a possibility that the residue may have blocked the water channels resulting in mangrove deaths,” said Rakesh Kumar, director, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Worli.