Plan to increase Mangroves around Mumbai

Mangroves at Airoli, New Bombay/ Navi Mumbai

The Mumbai region – including Mumbai, Thane and parts of Raigad – can look forward to a substantial increase in the amount of mangroves if a proposal by the state forest department sees the light of day. The forest department is proposing a conservation project that promises to double the amount of mangroves across six districts in the state over a decade. Three of these districts-Mumbai , suburban Mumbai and Thane-fall in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), while parts of Raigad are also part of the MMR.
Forest officials said mangrove regeneration would be conducted in Mumbai in the Gorai region, while Navi Mumbai would see similar projects in Vashi, Koparkhairne and Ghansoli. Other regeneration plans would be in Vasai, Diva and Mumbra in Thane district . Mangroves are important buffers between land and sea, checking coastal erosion and helping flood control.
The overall plan of the forest department seeks to double the state’s 186 sq km (18,600 hectares) of mangrove cover in a decade. This cover is spread along the state’s coast in Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts and the four districts in and around Mumbai.
The state government’s mangrove cell expects to double the amount of mangroves by nurturing mudflats. “We are taking the help of the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation. A major aim would be to revive mangroves in areas where they earlier existed ,” said Praveen Pardeshi, secretary of the state forest department.
The planners said the project would focus on mudflats along the coast that don’t have mangroves, but can support them. This would include areas where mangroves were earlier destroyed. “With minimal intervention from our side we can facilitate the inflow of water , and many of these mudflats, which harboured mangroves in the past, can be restored to their original state. Coupled with such a revival, we would also plant fresh mangroves,” said N Vasudevan , chief conservator of forests and head of the mangrove cell.
Till recently, the forest department played practically no role in mangrove conservation, but a landmark order from the Bombay High Court in 2005 changed this. The mangrove revival plan is an offshoot of this order. The judgment mandated that mangroves on government land be declared as ‘protected forests’ and those on private lands as ‘forests’ . As part of this process, 5,469 hectares (54.69 sq km) of mangroves have been already notified as protected forests. Most of the mangroves in Mumbai and Thane districts have been notified, said an official in the environment department.
This would lead to about 250 sq km of land, lining 720 km of coast, coming directly or indirectly under the forest department. An examination of mudflats is being carried out to see which areas qualify for regeneration . Once more areas are notified, more mudflats would be available .
“Mangroves on government land are being handed over to the forest department as compact parcels, with large stretches of mudflats in the area,” said Vasudevan. He added, “It does not mean that all mudflats originally had mangroves . We have to first identify those mudflats that did and start the revival there. We are being very careful not to replace one eco-system with another.”
Environmentalist Debi Goenka said that instead of regenerating mangroves on mudflats, the state should revive them where illegal reclamation has been done. “The new Coastal Regulation Zone rules show mudflats as having separate CRZ-1 status. Mudflats and mangroves have different eco-systems . The state should first stop destruction of existing mangroves,” he said.
Hugging the coast
The State of Forests Report (2011), published in January 2012 by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), assesses the state’s mangrove cover as 186 sq km, including mangroves standing on private as well as public land.

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