‘Mangrove destruction led to flooding at 20 Uran villages’
The Raigad district administration has disclosed that 20 villages in Uran, Navi Mumbai, were flooded during monsoon, affecting 1,236 families, as a result of mangrove and wetland destruction. It is the first time that the administration has released this information in response to a RTI query. The administration has also said that floods of such magnitude have never been witnessed in Uran, with maximum families (753) getting affected in Chirner, Jashkar and Jasai villages.
Mangroves, which are a part of wetlands, act as a sponge, absorbing excess water during monsoon or acting as a buffer against rising sea levels for coastal villages.
HT has been reporting wetland and mangrove destruction cases in Uran since 2018. While 1,281 hectares of wetlands (the size of 1,740 football fields) have been lost to reclamation, more than 10,000 hectares of mangrove forests have either dried up or been destroyed over the past two years.
Environment group Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishthan (SEAP), which had filed the RTI query, lodged a complaint with the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority after they received the response. “Natural sources of tidal water flow through holding ponds and sluice gates have been blocked off, ultimately drying out wetlands and choking mangrove patches,” said Nandkumar Pawar, head, SEAP and petitioner before the Bombay high court (HC). “There are 26 fishing villages in Uran situated three metres below the high tide line, of which 20 have flooded...”
The district administration admitted that increase in flooding was owing to major wetland areas being turned into dust bowls for construction along with destruction of mangrove trees for linear infrastructure and port projects. “All our efforts are focused towards ensuring there is no repeat in the future of flooding that was witnessed in 2019. For this, all our natural ecosystems need to be protected and degraded areas restored,” said Vijay Suryawanshi, Raigad district collector. “We have set up a separate committee that is building an inventory of wetlands... We have reiterated to all district departments and the police to follow up within 24 hours of any wetland or mangrove destruction complaint. JNPT and Cidco have both been informed to hand over mangrove forests to the state, and refrain from unnecessary destruction of ecological areas...”
While JNPT did not comment on the RTI response, Cidco said they needed to check records of areas flooded this monsoon.