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Mangrove forests in 11 Mumbai spots grow 133 hectares in 10 years

Activists say the study excludes Thane, Bhiwandi and Vasai, where mangrove destruction is rampant

mumbai Updated: Aug 27, 2018 00:38 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
mumbai,mangrove,wetlands
Kanjurmarg in Mumbai saw a 29-hectare increase – the highest among the 11 areas in Mumbai Metropolitan Region(HT photo)

The mangrove cell of Maharashtra’s forest department has said that there has been a 133-hectare rise across 11 locations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), owing to conservation and punitive action against encroachers. However, environmental groups have said that study published by the state cell could have ignored areas where forests are under threat.

“Since there is more manpower, concentrated efforts were carried out at each location to safeguard these trees, and satellite images prove this,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.

“Another reason is increased awareness among citizens through regular exchange of information through media reports,” he said. There has been an increase in the number of staff hired in the state cell, including forest guards and around 108 security personnel from the Maharashtra State Security.

The locations mentioned in the study include Kanjurmarg, Vikhroli, Gorai and Malvani.

Environmental activists said that while the latest data is accurate, there is no information on areas where mangrove forests are being destroyed. “These are all sites where plantations undertaken by the cell and NGOs were successful. Some of these areas had been degraded but have now been restored. However, massive unprecedented destruction continues in areas such as Uran, Thane, Bhiwandi, Vasai-Virar, Mira Bhayander, and Palghar. The cell needs to come out with the data for these locations as well,” said Stalin D, director of NGO Vanashakti.

He added that the mud brought by creeks was leading to siltation and creating mudflats mudflats that are being claimed by mangroves. “This is dangerous because it will eventually become a swamp and prevent discharge of storm water and sewage from the city,” Stalin said.

Vasudevan said this was a first of many reports for the Konkan coast. “We will be coming out with a location-wise analysis of all districts where rejuvenation, restoration or basic increase in mangrove cover has taken place,” he said.

“There might be isolated cases of mangrove destruction, but the overall scenario shows a significant improvement due to efforts from the administration and directions from courts which have been followed strictly,” said Virendra Tiwari, chief conservator of forest (mantralaya), state forest department. “In 2016, we had declared over 15,087.6 hectare of mangrove areas as reserved mangrove forests in Maharashtra and over 5,800 hectare in MMR. Enquiry of the remaining land is underway and final declaration will be done soon for better protection.”

Experts said vigilance across MMR regarding mangrove conservation had increased as a direct result of the cell’s efforts. “The cell managed to remove 8,000 tons of trash from different mangrove areas that led to strengthening of trees and rejuvenation of such sites. After witnessing bureaucracy for a long time, I have seen few examples of immediate response to such ecological issues, which this cell is doing actively,” said Satish Tripathi, former additional chief secretary and forest secretary, Maharashtra.

Mangroves are a group of trees, shrubs or ground fern found in the tropical and subtropical intertidal regions. They are important ecologically because they act as a buffer between the land and sea, protecting land from erosion.

Destruction of mangrove forests and construction work within 50m of mangrove areas was banned by the Bombay High Court in 2005, after a public interest litigation was filed by the Bombay Environment Action Group. Seven years later, the mangrove cell came into existence based on the order.

First Published: Aug 26, 2018 23:18 IST