by tybmmjourno

Mangroves-the spirit of Mumbai

Mangroves are the spirit and lifeline of Mumbai, which is slowly deteriorating due to a number of reasons.. Read on to know more…

Mangroves are an integral part of the Mumbai’s landscape and lifeline. These are fast disappearing owing to the rampant construction of buildings, highways and amusement parks and due to lack of responsibility on the part of the government to protect them. The statistics are huge! Mumbai is surrounded by approximately 5000 or more acres of mangrove swamps spread over various areas such as Mahim, Thane creek, Madh, Versova, Gorai, etc and of these, the city has lost almost 40% to land needed for construction and developmental projects. For instance, about 300 acres was sanctioned to build ‘EsselWorld’ amusement park in Gorai creek at Borivali and a golf course at Andheri.

Mangroves are small, woody plants which are found in low-lying shallow areas. Mangrove ecosystems serve as a buffer between land and sea by protecting the land from the impact of the sea. They maintain the integrity of Mumbai’s shoreline by trapping silt. So, for a major economic port like Mumbai, this is very crucial to maintain stability along the coastline and avoid accidents. Some say that infrastructure creation is an important and totally justifiable end in a city like Mumbai which is aiming to gain an international look.
However, the city has not yet learnt to appreciate the benefits given by mangroves.
Mangrove land has consistently been reclaimed and destroyed in the name of slum rehabilitation and garbage dumps, to make way for high rises. What many are not aware about is that marshy land is not meant for extensive construction and concretization of such land reduces its water absorption capacity.

We, as individual citizens shall feel personally responsible and raise our voice against such acts so that even the officials responsible are forced to take action. The positive news is that the initiation has already started.
Take the case of mangroves in Charkop, which pertains to a plot at Charkop, Sector 8, where illegal building construction has come up. There were protests everywhere in the area. The government seemed to have woken up to citizens’ calls. Valsa Nair, Secretary of the environment department ordered the tehsildar to take immediate action against the construction of Shri Sai Baba CHS, as it doesn’t have permission from the competent authority to do so and hence is in clear violation of the CRZ notification. The CRZ norms ban construction within 50 m of mangroves.

Residents living in the area say that the whole 30 square kilometer stretch of mangroves between Goregaon and Dahisar has been under threat for a long time now and 140 acres of mangroves adjoining Manori creek has been treated like a dumping ground to facilitate illegal construction. In some cases, mangroves were also being set ablaze!

So instead of the government waking up and taking action after the illegal structures have come up; it should be proactive in keeping a watch and curbing the nip of menace in the bud.

But finally, in April, the Mangrove Protection Committee, headed by the tehsildar and comprising of citizens, BMC, police and forest officials, came up with protective measures to safeguard the buffer zones in the area such as joint site visits of the most affected mangrove areas along with metal fabrication works and sand cleaning activities were undertaken between Borivli and Dahisar on mangrove land to protect the stretch.

This is yet another example of citizen activism triumphing over administrative ignorance and initiating action to make a difference. Had government agencies been half as alert and sensitive to Mumbai’s problems as its citizens, the city would have been much more lovable and livable.

—Sakshi Raina