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Phase 2 of wall construction around mangroves gets nod

By Badri Chatterjee, Mumbai
UPDATED ON FEB 05, 2020 12:46 AM IST

The state’s coastal protection authority has given its go-ahead to the forest department to commence the second phase of construction of concrete walls to protect mangrove forests across 16 locations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).

With a construction cost of 13 crore, the walls will stop debris dumping and encroachments at mangrove forests. “The walls are being constructed where the encroachments were removed and tidal water channels were dug up. Culverts have been made at the base of the wall to ensure free-flow of tidal water and no hindrance from concrete. The first phase will be completed in March, and the second phase will start immediately after,” said Neenu Somraj, deputy conservator of forest (mangrove cell), who was present during the Tuesday’s meeting.

The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), on Tuesday, issued coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearance for 2.6 metre-high walls, across 16 locations with one wall each in Vashi, Navi Mumbai, Borivli, Wadala salt pan zone, Chedda Nagar, Bhakti Park towards Sion, six from Mulund to Vikhroli along the Thane creek flamingo sanctuary and five more as extensions to under construction walls in Mandale and Mankhurd areas in the eastern suburbs.

Environmentalists, however, have opposed the idea and claimed that the walls may threaten the ecology of mangrove forests. The wall would cause more damage than protection, they said.

“Bringing in any kind of concrete into these eco-sensitive zones will harm the proliferation of mangrove trees and endanger the habitat,” said V Sundararaju, retired IFS officer and president, Society for Conservation of Nature, Trichy, Tamil Nadu.

Marine biologist E Vivekandan said, “Despite having culverts, there will be stagnation of water near the wall, which will ultimately submerge shallow roots of mangrove trees, and lead to over habitat destruction.”

HT was the first to report in April 2017 that the government was planning to build walls to protect Mumbai’s mangroves. The plan was to construct the wall between the buffer zone and where the reserved forest begins. On September 17, 2018, the Bombay high court (HC) directed that compound walls should be built 50 metres away on the landward side of mangrove areas and CCTV cameras should be installed at vulnerable areas. After delays in procuring permissions, construction of the first phase began in May 2019 with 2.5 metre-high walls along 550 m at Kanjur, 650m at Mandale and Mankhurd in the eastern suburbs, five areas – two in Malad-Malwani, one in Madh and two in Charkop. The cost of constructing the wall is 16,000 per metre, and approximately 8 crore has been spent on the first phase.

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