Oval Maidan-sized green cover wiped out from Thane creek section over 10 years: Report
A nine-hectare (ha) green cover, which is around the size of South Mumbai’s Oval Maidan, has been wiped out over the past decade from a section of the Thane creek in the densely populated Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
A comparative decadal study, using satellite images, conducted between April 2010 and April 2020 for the Kolshet creek area, adjacent to Kolshet village and Balkum pipeline, located on Vasai creek, which meets Ulhas river and is a part of the Thane creek, has revealed a loss of 9.43 ha green cover.
The authorities, who carried out the study, have attributed the green cover loss to debris dumping, encroachments, dumping of plastic and hazardous waste.
The loss of mangroves, along with other vegetation, rings alarm bells for Thane, including flooding concerns, according to Muse Foundation, an environmental group that released the report on Thursday.
The group submitted their findings to Maharashtra government’s mangrove cell and Bombay high court (HC)-appointed mangroves conservation committee.
Stalin D, a member of the HC-appointed committee, said the matter would be taken up during its next meeting.
The report, which called for restoring the green patch, highlighted the altered land use and land cover changes and raised concerns over the ecological damage. It identified the alarming scale of encroachments and debris dumping on the site with photographic evidence.
“These mangroves are extremely important to Thane due to current climatic conditions and frequent flooding. In the past, Kolshet had reported major flooding because of a swollen Thane creek,” said Nishant Bangera, founder, Muse Foundation.
The report pointed out instances of debris being covered by mud and letting weeds grow in a bid to evade surveillance of authorities.
The stretch is covered with waste because heaps of plastic from Thane city are routinely washed through the streams.
“The debris also consists of construction and biomedical waste, broken liquor bottles and other hazardous waste materials. Encroachments, ranging from shanties to recycling plants, are also threatening the local biodiversity,” said Bangera.
He pointed out that the encroachments increased during the recent coronavirus disease (Covid-19)-induced lockdown restrictions.
In September 2018, Bombay HC had banned mangrove destruction along the Maharashtra coastline and stopped any construction within 50 metres from the trees. “We will investigate the submissions made in the report. However, the majority of Thane mangrove patches, except for Bhiwandi (600 ha), falls under the revenue department or the Thane Municipal Corporation’s (TMC) jurisdiction. It needs to be handed over to us for better security,” said Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF) (mangrove cell).
Rohit Joshi, a member of the Thane district wetland committee, said the site was slated to be developed by TMC under its waterfront project.
Joshi had filed a petition before the HC against the project but the court had rejected his submission last September. “Development work in low-lying areas, including Kolshet, near the creek has resulted in submergence during heavy rains causing great risk to both human lives and properties. This year, too, these sites were flooded again due to random ecological destruction,” said Joshi.
A TMC executive engineer said the waterfront project was the solution to alleged environmentally destructive activities at the site. “We have planned the waterfront, spread over 2.5 ha at Kolshet, along with seven other such locations in Thane on government land for local residents to use open spaces such as mangrove trail, small promenades, playgrounds, among other facilities. At least 50% of the area will have fresh mangrove plantations. We will ensure that encroachments and debris dumping are stopped forthwith to make way for these projects,” he added.