Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, 6 October 2018
HT had first reported in April last year that the government was planning to protect Mumbai’s mangroves by building fences along 60km and installing CCTV cameras for vigilance.
Acting on the Bombay high court’s (HC) order on September 17 that listed steps such as installation of CCTVs and deployment of guards as steps to save mangroves, six 10-ft high walls will be built at Sai Dham Nagar in Charkop; near Lagoon Road in Malwani-Malad; along the Eastern Express Highway in Kannamwar Nagar, Vikhroli; Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Nagar, Colaba; Bhakti Park in Wadala and Shivneri Nagar Mandala, Mankhurd. More than 4,000 encroachments were cleared from these locations before the monsoon.
“The state wanted to do this for quite some time, but encroachments come up within three days of eviction. The HC order will give much-needed attention to the vulnerable mangrove patches in Mumbai,” said Debi Goenka, petitioner in the HC matter and executive trustee of Conservation Action Trust.
“We are in the advanced stage of planning. We will first look at spots that mangroves are vulnerable to slum encroachments,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell. “To build the wall, the 50-metre buffer zone from mangroves will put in ‘allowed activity’ zone.”
Makarand Ghodke, assistant conservator of forest, state mangrove cell, said, “The walls are expected to cost Rs 16,000 for a metre. These will be concrete walls with a hollow core, made of prefabricated cement, with tiles of 3m each. Once the tendering process is complete, the walls will be made outside the city and brought to these locations. Special culverts have been designed to allow the high tide flow outside the wall.”
Environmentalists, however, have a word of caution. “Anything that blocks tide water will alter the mangrove ecosystem. This protection could be achieved using fences (without concrete). The (concrete) wall can be broken into. The culverts will force the flow of water to one particular area,” said Stalin D, director, NGO Vanashakti.
The mangrove cell said the wall will not affect the tide flow. “The wall will be on the landward side, so there is no question of tidal water being blocked. As it is 50m away, there is no question of trees being affected,” said Vasudevan.
HT had first reported in April last year that the government was planning to protect Mumbai’s mangroves by building fences along 60km and installing CCTV cameras for vigilance. In April, the cell got the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority’s nod, but the project was stalled over clearance the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority’s (SEIAA) clearance, which is yet to come.
“We will review the details in our next meeting, but considering express directions from HC to safeguard mangroves, clearances will not be a problem,” said a senior SEIAA official.