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Stilts to keep mangroves safe from hackers, dumpers

Forest Department is planning to erect artificial columns around 3,000 hectares of mangrove vegetation, in a bid to curb the rampant encroachment and waste dumping 
 
Tomorrow is World Wetlands Day, and here's some well-timed good news about the city's fast-depleting mangrove cover. In a bid to conserve the endangered mangrove swamps in the state, the Forest Department has planned to demarcate the wetlands and erect stilts, which will prevent citizens from encroaching into the precincts, dumping debris or indiscriminately mowing down the vegetation.


Protected by law: The HC ordered the Forest Department to protect the
mangroves in the wake of a sustained campaign waged by environmental
groups, who had expressed outrage at the way in which the precious
mangrove habitat was falling prey to the greed of builders' lobbies. File pic


The Bombay High Court recently declared about 5,800 hectares of mangrove habitat as protected forests. The Forest Department was then vested with the responsibility of protecting and conserving them. 

"Mumbai mangroves are badly affected, as they are hacked indiscriminately to make way for multi-storey apartments. Mangroves require certain ideal conditions like freshwater inflow, and good tidal outflow. But because of pollution, waste dumping and sand deposition, the tidal flushing gets affected, hindering the growth of the mangroves. Identifying the areas and protecting them is our responsibility. The gaps that have been created by hacking will be filled with other plantations," said a senior forest official. Stilts will be erected around a 3,000 hectare section of the land. "Mangroves are necessary to help avert natural calamities like tsunamis.

The presence of these wetlands also helps conserve marine life. Since we have taken over these mangroves, we have noticed that a good number of flamingoes are coming to the city. We are erecting stilts to protect the forests," said R K Pole, chief conservator forest (CCF), Thane. Pole revealed that forest officers would soon be deployed to keep a watch on the mangroves.

The HC order to the Forest department came in the wake of a sustained campaign waged by environmental groups, who had expressed outrage at the way in which the precious mangrove habitat was falling prey to the greed of builders' lobbies. The state is now in the process of earmarking another 26,000 hectares of coastal land in Maharashtra as forests. Not all are happy by this move. "We are against the idea of erecting these stilts. Plants need sunlight and the columns may obstruct light. We are going to write to the CM to raise these issues," said Rishi Agarwal, Mangrove Society of India (Mumbai).

Did you know?
February 2 is World Wetlands Day. It marks the 1971 date when the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Each year since 1997, government agencies, non-governmental organisations, and groups of citizens at all levels of the community have tried to raise public awareness of wetland values and benefits, and the Ramsar Convention, on this day. The World Wetlands Day theme this year is wetlands and tourism.

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