Coastal Road: Destroying corals violates wildlife laws, mangrove cell warns BMCUpdated: Jun 30, 2020 00:37 IST
The forest department has cautioned the civic body on the threat to corals due to reclamation activity for the Coastal Road. The move comes following repeated complaints filed by residents, environmentalists and marine biologists over the safety of coral diversity.
Corals are marine invertebrates that attach themselves to rocky intertidal regions or the ocean floor. They are given the same protection status as that of a tiger or an elephant (schedule-1) under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972.
Citing the presence of corals, in July 2019, the Bombay high court had questioned Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on reclamation activity without obtaining clearances under WPA.
The mangrove cell under the forest department issued a letter recently to BMC reminding them about coral protection status under wildlife laws. “Corals have been reported from the Coastal Road project site, off Mahalaxmi, by the Mangrove Foundation, while studying intertidal coral diversity of Maharashtra. Several colonies of reef-building False Pillow corals (Pseudosiderastrea tayamai) have been observed in a large tide pool near the project site in Haji Ali,” the letter read adding, “Any act of destruction of coral species during the construction process shall amount to a violation of the WPA.”
Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forest (mangrove cell) said, “Our team of marine biologists visited some sites over the past week. No destruction of corals has been observed so far. In some cases, we did not observe the coral presence due to the high tide. However, on-ground monitoring will continue.”
Meanwhile, a letter signed by 250 Mahalaxmi and Haji Ali residents sent to state environment minister Aditya Thackeray on Monday requested the declaration of Mahalaxmi Bay area, the body of water from Mona apartments to the causeway at Haji Ali Dargah, as a marine sanctuary. “A possible way of achieving this would be to have a sea link rather than a road from Breach Candy club to the Haji Ali intersection. This would allow the Coastal Road project to proceed, while simultaneously protecting marine life,” the letter read, adding that residents were willing to maintain the Mahalaxmi Bay and the presently reclaimed area at their expense.
BMC said they had stopped reclamation activity for a day to identify areas with coral presence following complaints. “A team from BMC, independent marine experts and researchers from National Institute of Oceanography visited areas in Haji Ali where the presence of corals could not be identified,” said Vijay chief engineer, BMC’s Coastal Road project. “In any case, we have appointed environmental experts and due care is being taken to protect eco-sensitive zones at project areas.”