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Mumbai’s Mangrove getting slashed time to time

Mangrove ecosystems provide a range of economic and environmental benefits to people who utilise them as ecosystem goods and services.

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The land is needed for development but people need trees to breathe, in the name of infrastructure, Mumbai is losing its greenery part by part. The Bombay High Court (HC) allowed the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to go ahead with cutting 357 mangroves for the construction of Metro piers at Sewri and Bhakti Park station, as part of under-construction Metro Line-4 that connects Wadala in eastern suburbs to Kasarwadavli on Ghodbunder road in adjoining Thane district. The court has allowed MMRDA to cut 357 mangroves primarily after it observed that the development of Metro Line-4 has immense public importance in terms of public transport.

Development is a very important aspect of city infrastructure but in this growing concert jungle, one needs to breathe. Mangrove ecosystems provide a range of economic and environmental benefits to people who utilise them as ecosystem goods and services. Those can be assessed by ecological sustainability (e.g. nutrient and organic matter cycling), economic prosperity (the food and timber that people obtain), environmental security (protection from the tsunami) and cultural values (acting as recreation fields). The estimated annual economic value of these ecosystems is USD 200,000 – USD 900,000 per hectare.

They perform important ecological functions like nutrient cycling, hydrological regime, coastal protection, fish-fauna production, etc. Mangroves act as shock absorbers. They reduce high tides and waves and help prevent soil erosion. They also provide livelihood opportunities to coastal communities. Look at the present condition of Mumbai.

Mangroves are found at the interface between marine and terrestrial ecosystems and support unique fauna with high biodiversity by providing habitats, nurseries, shelter, and feeding areas for various animals such as reptiles, birds, mammals, fish, and shrimps. The latter two, fish and shrimps, include many commercially important species and thus the linkage between mangroves and nearshore and offshore fisheries has been focused on. More than 50% of global fish and shellfish harvests have been linked directly or indirectly to estuarine nurseries. In Southeast Asia, mangrove-associated species contribute 30% to fish and 100% to shrimp catches. Therefore, mangrove ecosystems significantly support the coastal economy by providing valuable fishery resources. Sustainable global marine fisheries are partly dependent upon the health of mangrove ecosystems.

The bench has also directed Metro authority to comply with the conditions imposed by authorities while granting permission. The conditions include compensatory afforestation over a hectare of degraded mangrove forest at Gorai, where the MMRDA will need to plant 4,444 mangroves saplings with developing a nursery cost and fully fund it for the duration of ten years. It also directed the MMRDA to construct a temporary road for carrying out the construction work. The orders are given, permissions are granted but there would hardly be any follow-ups. Earlier, the court directives had prohibited development work in mangrove forests and a 50-meter buffer zone around mangroves until the court found the importance of the work keeping in mind the benefits it would provide to the people.

MMRDA assured the court it will restore the temporary area to its original condition once the construction is completed, and abide by the Union ministry’s conditions for approving the proposal. MMRD has argued apart from providing eco-friendly transportation, the Metro Rail project is also expected to reduce emission, improve traffic conditions in Mumbai Metropolitan Region, and save precious fuel.

Mumbai has set aside 224 hectares (ha) of mangroves as reserve forests. About 40 ha of these newly-protected areas are along the Mithi River, which is choked by illegal construction. Other forests that have received protection are in Charkop, Vikhroli and Versova, locations that are threatened by encroachers. The latest notification brings the total mangrove forests under protected status to 3,948 ha — almost 40 square km. Areas notified as reserved forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, get better protection from destruction and encroachers.

Whenever I visit the seaside of Mumbai, my heart cries out looking at the waste and pollution in the water. Sea beaches are overloaded with plastic; clothing pieces, cosmetic and chemical industry waste. Earlier, major Industrial wastes used to be dumped into the Sea. The Mumbai coastal area always had some of the other challenges. Somehow with imposed laws and vigilant citizens, sea cleaning became the priority and many NGOs tirelessly worked towards the same. Among all of these Mangroves is one of the least noticed yet most important ecosystems.

Wherever there is an intermediate landform, the diversity of species will be very high. Also, most of the species in such landforms would be unique to that ecosystem. In the case of mangroves, it supports a vast range of species from microorganisms to Tigers like big animals. Mangroves are a special type of ecosystem with loosely packed sediments, constant influence of tides and very high salinity when compared to river waters. Species in this ecosystem have special adaptations to survive the challenging conditions.

There are thousands of projects and billions of funds poured into cleaning and spreading awareness about maritime pollution. Lots of strain is laid these days on preventing it. Actually, I strongly feel there is a need to create awareness about water and waste management onboard ships. Meanwhile, stringent policy and rules are a must, and implementing them should be much more prompt. In most countries, it is not easy for any ship or company to get away after causing any damage to the Sea environment. Right now the major threats to the world’s coastal lines include extreme climate events, unsound sightseeing practices, poison fishing for decorative fish, overexploitation by fisheries, sedimentation, harvesting, detonate fishing and pollution. 

Due to the increasing population, the coastal lines and sea pace is occupied by humans for livelihood. Which has resulted in an imbalance of the Coastal Environ system, Such as hampering Mangroves at coastal lines? The heavy rainfall that Mumbai receives every monsoon causes extreme havoc and with the destruction of mangroves, the flooding and waterlogging problems in the city is only getting to exacerbate.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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