Environmentalist Afroz Shah's book inspires state mangrove cell top clean up Dahisar mangroves

Jan 29, 2018, 09:14 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

Afroz Shah provides some much-needed inspiration to state mangroves cell, which is removing close to three tonnes of garbage from the green belt daily

The clean-up activity has been going on in full swing over the last couple of weeks
The clean-up activity has been going on in full swing over the last couple of weeks

The state is taking a leaf out of environmentalist Afroz Shah's book to save the mangrove forests of the city. Inspired by Shah's clean-up drives at Versova beach, the state mangroves cell has started its own operation to clear out all the plastic that is choking the mangrove forests at Gorai as well as Dahisar. Workers have managed to collect three tonnes of garbage daily for the past two weeks, but officials warn that this is still not enough.

The mangroves cell has deployed 30 workers to cleanse the mangroves — 20 at Dahisar, and 10 at Gorai. In the past two weeks, they have picked up over 25 tonnes of litter from both spots. Range Forest Officer Prashant Deshmukh said, "Every day, we collect two to three tonnes of plastic waste that's carried into the mangroves by the tides. The BMC has promised us that it will lift the litter that we have collected."

Thanks to clean-up marshals posted at various spots along the Gorai shoreline, it is not as far gone as Dahisar, where massive quantities of waste wash up at the mangroves every day. A lot of the waste comes from the sea, or even from nullahs and creeks in slum pockets, where residents throw their garbage into the water, as there is no garbage collection system in place there.

Thirty workers clear 2-3 tonnes of litter from Dahisar and Gorai mangroves daily
Thirty workers clear 2-3 tonnes of litter from Dahisar and Gorai mangroves daily

'Root' of the problem
"We want to appeal to people to stop throwing plastic and other waste into the sea or nullahs, because this litter has a negative impact on the mangroves and marine life," Deshmukh added. Activists have lauded this initiative but are sceptical of how long the benefits will last unless the authorities address the source of the problem — littering. "Removing plastic waste is directly beneficial, as the pencil roots of mangroves can finally breathe without suffocation. When the garbage is removed, the mud gets exposed, creating a healthy habitat and feeding ground for fauna, such as water birds, mud skippers and crabs. But it will take a minimum of 20 years to take out all the garbage in Mumbai," said Ankit Vyas, volunteer at the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau.

According to the mangroves cell, Mumbai has a huge mangrove forest cover sprawling across 5,800 hectares, of which around 4,000 hectares is government-owned land, while the remaining is private. But a majority of the mangrove cover is at risk from garbage and debris dumping as well as rampant encroachment.

Stalin D from NGO Vanashakti said, "It's a really good move by the state mangroves cell to clean up the mangroves with the help of nature lovers. The problem is we can do a hundred clean-ups, but it will be futile unless all agencies come together and tackle the source of the problem. I have already filed a petition regarding this with the National Green Tribunal."

Versova clean-up
For over 100 weeks, Afroz Shah and his team of volunteers visited Versova beach every Saturday and Sunday and collected garbage. The initiative drew nearly 12,000 volunteers.

25 Total tonnes of garbage cleaned up so far
20 Years it will take to clear out all the garbage

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