Maharashtra: Activists flag 10-acre patch devoid of foliage, Mangrove Cell orders probe
Mangrove trees across 10 acres in Mumbai’s eastern suburbs have lost leaves and died because of tidal water blockage, environmentalists have said and prompted the Maharashtra’s Mangrove Cell to order an investigation.
The state mangrove cell on Friday afternoon conducted the first round of investigation at the site. “Our team of beat officers could not identify any sources of high tide water that had been blocked at the wetland. However, the entire mudflats and mangrove patch continue to be dry. We will inspect the site on Monday again and also speak to locals in the area if they can help identify the causes for this issue,” said Suresh Warak, range forest officer (Mangrove Cell).
NGOs Vanashakti and Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishthan (SEAP) filed complaints with the cell and the Mumbai suburban collector on Wednesday attaching images of the site.
From September onwards, several mangrove patches in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region wore a dry, skeletal look due to certain defoliating pests that feed mainly on leaves and sometimes mangrove tree barks.
New leaves and greener foliage have grown on most of the mangroves except in the Mahul-Wadala area. “We initially thought it was due to the pest attack but the reason seems to be different. There is a deliberate blockage of tidewater to this patch which needs to be investigated. The wetland has dried up and has become hard,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti.
Based on orders passed by the Bombay high court in 2005 and reiterated in 2018 and recently brought to the notice of various state departments by environment minister Aaditya Thackeray, mangrove forests under the jurisdiction of state bodies need to be handed over to the forest department. The administrative jurisdiction of the mangrove area at Mahul-Wadala is with the Mumbai suburban district collector.
“The land has not been notified and handed over to the forest department. The state continues to drag its feet on this issue and is allowing the decimation of mangroves,” added Stalin, who is also the member of the state-appointed Wetland and Mangrove Grievance Redressal Committee.
Nandkumar Pawar, head, SEAP, said, “The incidents at Mahul are most unusual. This kind of condition of a salt-tolerant eco-sensitive mangrove patch has not been witnessed in the past. Using geo-tagged photographs, we have requested authorities to restore the water supply and ensure the patch is reinstated. Also, culprits need to face the law.”
Virendra Tiwari, an additional principal chief conservator of forest (Mangrove Cell), said, “We are clueless at the moment on what could have caused this. We have asked our officers to investigate in detail and action will be taken based on the report.”
An official from the suburban collector’s office said they have received the complaint. “The matter has been shared with the forest department. We will provide any support required.”