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98.5% mangrove saplings planted in 2012 bloom at Thane’s Bhandup

An impressive 98.5% (27,600) of 28,000 mangrove saplings planted at Bhandup near Mumbai in 2012 survived

mumbai Updated: Jul 23, 2017 00:46 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
At Bhandup, the saplings were planted on a 20-hectare degraded mangrove patch (Praful Gangurde)

An impressive 98.5% (27,600) of 28,000 mangrove saplings planted at Bhandup in 2012 survived, the state’s mangrove cell has revealed.

HT reported on June 12 that all not one of the 84,000 saplings planted at Charkop between 2013 and 2016 survived. At Malwani, the survival rate was 50% (10,000 of 20,000).

At Bhandup, the saplings were planted on a 20-hectare degraded mangrove patch that earlier had aquaculture ponds dug by the mangrove cell and Vanashakti. On a recent visit to the site HT found the area had become a dense mangrove forest, with trees almost seven metres tall.

Mangroves are salt tolerant plants that protect the city’s coastline from inundation. Close to 150 hectares of mangrove forests have already been sanctioned to be destroyed for various development projects in and around Mumbai, including the proposed Navi Mumbai International airport and the BMC’s coastal road project.

Data from the from the mangrove cell also revealed that only 7,000 (7.5%) of 93,324 saplings planted at Manori in 2012 survived. By contrast, the survival rate was more than 50% survival in other parts of Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.

“A plantation has a better chance of survival if the correct site is chosen,” said Stalin D, project director, Vanashakti. “A degraded area will restore itself automatically. Mangroves are very different from terrestrial vegetation, which can be grown anywhere. They cannot be treated like normal trees as they belong to a specific ecosystem that cannot be replicated at will,” he added.

As part of a large-scale mangrove restoration project, the state plans to plant 50 lakh saplings before 2020 - one lakh in October and November this year, 19 lakh in 2018, and another 30 lakh in 2019.

“Most of the saplings planted in the western suburbs of Mumbai were destroyed - either directly or through encroachments. However, in some areas we found that they didn’t survive because of soil conditions,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forests, state mangrove cell. “Saplings planted in Navi Mumbai, Bhandup and parts of the eastern suburbs plantations had a good survival rate as there is access to tidal water. In areas where there wasn’t, we dug channels to ensure that the saplings survive.”

Stalin said that there was hardly any space left in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) for huge mangrove plantations anymore. “The focus should be towards protecting open mud flats, which wetland birds use to congregate and feed. Nature decides where mangroves should grow,” he said. “In some cases, the authorities give permission to destroy mangroves with an assurance that three times the number of new trees will be planted, which isn’t physically possible.”

Mumbai will lose 106 hectares of mangrove forests, equal to 72 Wankhede Stadiums, for the proposed Navi Mumbai airport. At the northern portion of the proposed coastal road, the city will lose another 33.17 hectares of reserved mangrove forests – almost three-and-half times the size of Oval Maidan (9 hectares) in south Mumbai.

First Published: Jul 23, 2017 00:46 IST