While the state government charts ambitious plans to ‘create’ new mangrove hubs, it seems to have no foolproof method to conserve what’s left of the once dense mangrove population. MiD DAY has discovered yet another instance of rampant dumping of construction material on one of the few surviving mangrove swamps within city precincts – contractors and developers have now made the Bandra Kurla Complex Service Road their happy dumping ground.
The road connects Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) to the Bandra Government Colony. Under the cover of darkness on most nights, trucks belonging to unknown contractors and builders stealthily drive up and park along the stretch adjoining the TATA Communication Residential Complex. While the city sleeps, truckloads of debris are dumped from a day’s construction or demolition activity on this stretch.
Mounds of rubble, comprising stone, bricks, concrete cinderblocks and other industrial material are systematically stifling the mangroves on this stretch. A watchman who witnessed the incident, said, on condition of anonymity, “No one dumps debris during the day. But between 2 and 5 am, when the road is deserted, trucks come and empty their load here.”
Apart from harming the natural ecosystem, the debris is also encouraging squatters to use the mounds of debris as a base for their encroachments, many of which have already mushroomed along the mangrove stretch. Promptly passing the buck to another authority, MMRDA Joint Project Director, Dilip Kawathkar, claimed that the land does not fall under its jurisdiction, but that of the Collector. “They should look into the matter and take whatever action is necessary to curb the ongoing activity,” he said.
Rishi Agarwal, a member of the Mangrove Society of India (Mumbai chapter), said, “I have read recently that the government is spending money to create mangrove hubs. The government has its priorities wrong. Why are they spending money on creating mangroves, when it would be far more sensible to protect the existing ones? Encroachments are happening right before their eyes, and yet they can’t see it. As a state, we still have a long way to go as far as protection of our mangroves is concerned.”
Did you know?
The city of Mumbai encompasses an estimated 61.7 sq km of mangroves, a number which has been steadily falling over the last few years. Mangroves are an essential part of Mumbai’s forest cover, as they guard against soil erosion, and reduce rainwater seepage.