Carbon sequestration volume from Thane sanctuary valued at ₹46 lakh per year: Maharashtra government
The 896-hectare (ha) mangrove cover at Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS) stores 2,688 tonnes of carbon every year, mostly from the pollutants released into the atmosphere, the Maharashtra forest department said. The estimated carbon sequestration volume was valued at ₹46 lakh per annum as an ecosystem resource, apart from being a safe haven for migratory birds and other species.
Mangroves are salt-tolerant plants and so protect the coastline from inundation, capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. The process is called carbon sequestration, and it helps control rising global temperatures by reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere, according to climate scientists.
The forest department revealed the details in the revised management plan (2020-21 to 2029-30) for the sanctuary, which was approved by the state chief wildlife warden (CWLW) on Thursday. An estimated expenditure of ₹106.66 crore has been budgeted for the sanctuary’s protection over the next 10 years while developing a road map for threats and their mitigation measures.
“The plan focuses on habitat improvement and identifies sustainable management options for natural and anthropogenic threats, which will help in the long-term protection of this crucial segment of the Central Asian Flyway,” said Nitin Kakodkar, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife), Maharashtra.
The carbon sequestration study for TCFS was carried out by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, while preparing the management plan.
“Even the loss of one mangrove tree can lead to excessive carbon being released back into the air, making it crucial to protect this complex ecosystem,” said Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.
Tiwari explained that the WII study, using allometric equations of mangrove leaves, leaf litter and sediment biomass was based on the assessment that a 20-year-old mangrove plant has a carbon burial rate of 580 grams per square metre each year.
“TCFS’s carbon sequestration potential was estimated to be around 3 tonnes per hectare every year is equivalent to ₹5,180 per ha each year, which when calculated for 896 ha becomes 2,988 tonnes per year and translates into an ecosystem resource of ₹46.6 lakh annually,” said Tiwari.
The mangrove cell further validated these findings for two locations – Bhandup and Airoli – through another study where the quantum of carbon sequestered was calculated at 37.3 tonnes per ha from Avicennia marina species (most dominant in the creek).
“Mangrove trees have more potential to store carbon than terrestrial trees. Declared sanctuaries create a permanent carbon stock providing continuous bionetwork services. This is essential to curb daily CO2 emissions for a city like Mumbai,” said Sheetal Pachpande, assistant director (projects), mangrove cell.
In August 2016, the state declared the northern part of Thane creek – that includes a flamingo sanctuary spread over 1,690 ha (896 ha mangroves and 794 ha land adjacent to a water body) – as tourism zone to safeguard the flamingo population.
The area is home to 12 true mangrove species and 39 mangrove associates, 167 species of birds, 45 fish species, 59 species of butterflies, 67 insect species.
Independent experts said not just mangroves but the whole benthic habitat, including migratory birds and marine organisms, contribute to storing large quantities of carbon.
“Any economic tag to the role played by TCFS is an underestimate as it is beyond human comprehension to understand its value as an ecosystem protecting the Mumbai region,” said Deepak Apte, director, Bombay Natural History Society.
Meanwhile, a critical natural threat to TCFS was identified, as the increase in mangrove vegetation due to leaching (liquid byproduct when waste gets decomposed) and excess siltation, reducing the width of the creek and mudflats as roosting areas for flamingos. Environmentalists said declining creek width and mudflat loss could lead to a flooding threat.
“If not monitored carefully the combination of issues could turn the sanctuary into a swamp,” said environmentalist Stalin D.
Tiwari said the mangrove cell intends to demarcate the exact boundary of the creek on-ground. “To prevent the mudflat habitat from shrinking, we will be uprooting saplings during post monsoon months (October-December) to ensure the current mangrove line is not breached. We will also conduct regular mangrove mapping and health surverys,” he said.
The management plan was first submitted by former mangrove cell chief N Vasudevan in January 2019. However, after modifications suggested by a committee under the CWLW related to patrolling pathways, watchtower construction, additional staff requirements, and sapling removal from mudflat, the plan was revised and resubmitted in May, and finally approved on Thursday.
10-year budget to conserve flamingo sanctuary
An estimated expenditure of ₹106.66 crore has been budgeted for the sanctuary’s protection over the next 10 years, while developing a road map for threats and their mitigation measures. Of this, ₹43.8 crore has been earmarked for tourism development, including the second phase of the Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Centre in Airoli (for developing amenities such as mangrove arboretum, parking facilities, mangrove trail, landscaping etc) as well as ‘Giant of the Seas’, a museum on marine animals comprising exhibits of whales and other marine species. ₹21 crore has been set aside for habitat management, site protection and restoration activities as well as for capacity building. The remaining funds would be used for increasing staff recruitment, building requirements, acquisition of vehicles and equipment for monitoring.
State’s plans to combat anthropogenic threats
The state plans to increase security staff, watchtowers, mangrove trails and increased tourism to put an end on hunting of flamingos.
To prevent overfishing, the state will support fishermen through livelihood initiatives including aquaculture, crab culture and make them participate in tourism activities.
The government will demarcate the exact boundary of the sanctuary on-ground. The management plan review committee plans to hold meetings every six months to check status of protection, and all proposed projects will be scrutinised at various levels of the state and Centre before assessing any clearances to prevent developmental pressures around the sanctuary.
The state plans to keep a check on the dumping of waste and discharge of effluents by monitoring the pollution load from Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai. It also plans to treat water from the nearby cities.
(Source: Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary Management Plan 2020-21 - 2029-30)