New tag, better protection for Mumbai’s 225ha mangroves
The Maharashtra government has notified 224.68 hectares (ha) of mangroves in Mumbai, including 40ha along the Mithi river, as reserved forests, acting on a Bombay high court (HC) order of September 2018 that sought protection for the green cover.
The area of the new reserved forests – around 2.25sqkm – is equivalent to the size of 424 football fields (0.53ha). The tag has been given to a 50.8-ha plot in Charkop, which has reported destruction of trees in five years, 49.24-ha stretch in Vikhroli, 36.1ha in Mahim, 41.1 ha in Versova, 19ha in Turbhe, along with smaller stretches in other areas. Of the forests notified along Mithi river, 36.1ha is along Parik Khadi, Kurla, 3ha along Kolhekalyan near Vakola, Santacruz, and 1.2ha at Bandra (East). With the latest notification, the total area of mangroves protected as reserved forests has touched 3,948ha.
The new status as reserved forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 provides more protection for mangroves as the law prohibits all human activity in the zone, including grazing, hunting etc., while giving more teeth to the forest department to penalise encroachers. “Most mangroves on government land have been declared as reserved forest. We are mapping the remaining stretches district-wise and notifying it,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell. “Notifying areas as reserved forest allows the forest department to take action against violators. Otherwise, the district administration had to act under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.”
The notification of mangroves along Mithi is significant as the area had witnessed flooding during heavy rain between July 2 and 3. “Mangrove cover in this region will absorb excess water flooding banks along both sides of the river,” said Arvind Untawale, executive secretary, Mangrove Society of India (MSI), a Goa-based nonprofit.
According to the Forest Survey of India (FSI), Mumbai has 6,400ha mangroves in the suburbs and 200ha in south Mumbai. Of these, close to 4,500ha are on government-owned land and remaining in private areas. While Navi Mumbai and the eastern end of Thane creek have 1,471 ha, the western bank of Thane creek has 1,500ha. So far, the state had notified mangrove forests across 3,723.3ha in the Mumbai suburbs. After the court order, approximately 700ha had to get reservation within Mumbai’s municipal limits. Currently, 475ha remains to be notified.
“An additional 1,500-2,000 ha is remaining across other districts such as Thane, Palghar, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, and over the next couple of months, these areas will be notified as reserved forests,” said Vasudevan.
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