On Saturday, this paper carried a front page story about how mangroves in the Western suburbs are being steadily eroded because household debris is being piled on to them. Mangroves which are meant to protect the coast have now sadly and shockingly become a garbage bin for rubbish collected from homes in the vicinity.

This is adding salt to environmentalists’ wounds, if one may call it so. For years now, we have read reports about how environmentalists are waging a desperate battle to keep mangroves alive in the city. Sometimes, it is the builder’s bulldozer and at other times, it is encroachment of another kind, but mangroves are at the peril of what is euphemistically termed ‘development’ in this city.

In the report, it was stated that in several patches, mangroves were burnt. The report stated that alert residents had noticed this dumping of debris by a clutch of handcart operators in the area. Apparently, somebody had spotted, a handcart puller taking debris to dump into the sea.

It is surprising why civic authorities have not been alerted to what is an impending environmental disaster. This city has always been at the centre of a perennial battle of environment vs development.

So much open space, parks, green lungs have been sacrificed at the altar of development. Developers have always argued that a city bursting at its seams needs more and more infrastructure to absorb all the influx of people and buildings.

So, laws are twisted, tweaked or loopholes are taken advantage of and suddenly one sees trees have vanished, open space has been encroached and sea sides have become dumping grounds on some pretext or the other. Citizens literally have to become watchdogs and activists to stop the degradation. Not everyone has the time or the means to do this.

Dumping debris at the nearest convenient spot is not development. It is plainly a callous disregard for mangroves and compounds the ecological imbalance of Mumbai. Civic officials need to act fast and stop this if they have to stop the murder of mangroves, those gentle, green sentinels of our city’s coastline.