Maharashtra government submits action plan before NGT to tackle waste at Mumbai mangrovesUpdated: Oct 01, 2020, 00:44 IST
Two state bodies have chalked out an action plan to reduce waste that is affecting mangrove forests and coastal wetlands in Mumbai.
The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and state mangrove cell under the forest department have recommended that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) make special arrangements to install metal nets along all creek areas, especially along Mithi river, to ensure waste is trapped before entering the creeks.
The submissions come in response to directions issued by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in July while hearing an application by environment group Vanashakti on coastal water pollution and the impact of solid waste entering the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS).
NGT directed both, the MPCB and mangrove cell to submit recommendations to keep mangrove areas free from waste. The next date of hearing is October 7.
Both bodies submitted a joint affidavit dated September 18 (made public by applicants on Monday) highlighting measures such as appointing a flying squad to prevent and monitor illegal waste disposal; a mechanism to impose fines on defaulters; ensuring 100% sewage network, and development of an overall comprehensive action plan from an expert institute for mangrove conservation.
“The present perception of mangroves as the garbage can of the city has to change. A major threat to mangroves is the deposition of enormous quantities of solid waste in the area. Much of this waste is non-biodegradable and settles on mangrove breathing roots, choking them to death,” read the submission by divisional forest officer DR Patil (mangrove cell).
MPCB’s recommendations directed state departments (revenue, forest, and BMC) to ensure encroachment removal, restrict the dumping of construction debris and carry out mangrove plantation on degraded areas to avoid any waste dumping there.
MPCB estimates that untreated domestic waste accounts for 93% pollution across water bodies and mangrove forests, with 25% of the city’s total sewage entering the sea without any treatment. “We have called for two major recommendations. The first is for BMC to commence the process of mapping most vulnerable areas where trash enters creeks and install metal nets to trap this waste. The second is to constitute a mangrove conservation district committee, including a member from the planning authority, for effective implementation of all our plans,” said a senior MPCB official, requesting anonymity as the matter is sub judice.
Suresh Kakani, additional commissioner, BMC, said, “We will be submitting our affidavit before the NGT soon. We are open to implementing suggestions expressed by state bodies, including installation of nets, provided we receive clearance for such activities from either the tribunal or the Union environment ministry in the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) 1 area.”
Meanwhile, the mangrove cell, under the forest department, had informed the NGT during an earlier hearing, that 8,000 tonnes of garbage were removed from different mangrove forests in successive clean-up operations. The cell estimates Mumbai’s mangrove forests (6,600 hectares) have around 50,000 tonnes of plastic waste due to improper waste treatment.
“We have suggested various measures as indicated under an effluent treatment plan study undertaken to address pollution at the Mahul Trombay creek by the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) for the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link project,” said Patil.
Of this, the cell has suggested the use of deflector screens (flat surfaces that help collect floating debris from rivers and creeks even at high flow rate) and booms (partially submerged temporary floating barrier with mesh skirts to collect debris and litter by spreading across an entire waterway). “We have also laid emphasis on sediment removal technologies through trapping silt either downstream or at certain sections of the creeks and rivers. We are in the process of implementing this for the TCFS under our management plan,” said Patil.
Meanwhile, applicants in the matter said BMC had not taken any steps so far to address the issues. “In fact, they have not bothered to even reply to our petition yet. Nor have they responded to requests from other statutory bodies. It is left to the judiciary now to pass orders to stop the flow of non-degradable waste into mangrove areas,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti, adding that BMC was duty-bound to implement cheap effective solutions to keep the marine ecosystems clean. According to Vanashakti, Mumbai daily dumps 80-110 metric tons (MT) of plastic waste into drains and water channels.
An official from the stormwater drains department said trash booms were installed across eight locations in Mumbai (western suburbs) in 2019. “It was successful during the pre-monsoon period, with plastic waste collected regularly from the drains. However, when the load increased during monsoon, the booms could not contain the capacity. The plan was dropped,” he said.