Encroachments on the Gorai mangrove belt
The fast depleting mangrove cover along the city’s coastline has spurred the authorities into initiating remedial measures. They plan to plant nearly 1 lakh saplings at the proposed 5-hectare mangrove park in Gorai-Manori, for which the BMC’s Tree Authority cleared a proposal of Rs 1 crore at a meeting on Friday.
"The coastal green cover is important as it prevents soil erosion and acts as a natural buffer against flooding. Aware of the crucial role of mangroves, Tree Authority members approved R1 crore for the project," a senior civic official said.
The BMC will pump Rs 3 crore into the park. As construction activities are not allowed in and around mangroves, the Tree Authority sanctioned the laying of wooden boardwalks in the mangrove park for visitors.
The plantation will be monitored and executed by a special mangrove cell, formed by the government four years ago to preserve and rejuvenate the mangrove cover. The cell’s formation was based on a directive from the Bombay HC in 2005 on protecting mangroves in Mumbai. The court also told the state to declare areas with mangroves as buffer zones and restrict construction activities there.
A senior BMC official said the Gorai-Manori park will host mangrove species like rhizophora mucronata, avicennia marina and Salvadora persica.
Why a mangrove park?
The plan for a mangrove park in Gorai-Manori was announced in 2010 to protect inland homesteads, livestock and property near the shore. The park will have walking trails on wooden boardwalks, and offer bird-watchers an excellent opportunity to spot migrant and resident birds through watch towers. It will also have walkways, cycling tracks and restaurants. Mumbai’s mangroves at Thane Creek, Mahim, Gorai, Versova, Bandra and Malabar Hill are losing out to unregulated development and encroachments.
'Easier said than done'
Environmentalists are sceptical of the efficacy of the plan to plant mangrove saplings. Stalin D, member of city-based NGO Vanashakti, a group that fights for environmental rights, said, “Trees can be transplanted and planted. But, this is not the case with mangroves. Mangroves occur naturally as barriers to protect the coastline from tidal erosion and flooding. Planting mangroves and ensuring that there is growth is really an uphill task.” He, however, welcomed the mangrove park, saying it would create more awareness among people on the importance of mangroves in the ecosystem.