Mumbai: In a massive setback for the environment, more than 94,000 saplings planted by the state mangrove cell at Charkop and Malwani have died in the past four years. Maharashtra government has plans to plant 50 lakh mangrove saplings by 2019 to revive degraded wetlands.
The cases of mangrove destruction has been rampant, with at least two per week being recorded in the state. The destruction is continuing despite orders from the Bombay High Court and laws such as the Environment Protection Act, 1986 and Indian Forest Act, 1927, which are supposed to protect the mangrove ecosystem.
The state government planted mangrove saplings between 2013 and 2016 across 300 hectares in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. While 84,000 saplings were planted near Charkop village on 19 hectares — all of which died. Around 20,000 saplings were planted near Manori village of which 10,000 saplings died over the past four years. According to State officials, 85% of the saplings planted in Navi Mumbai have survived.
“Some of the saplings in these two areas (Manori and Charkop) have been removed by local villagers, while others did not survive. We ensured that proper channels for tidal water were made for these mangroves, but they failed to rejuvenate,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell, told Hindustan Times. “On the other hand, saplings in Navi Mumbai either regenerated on their own or survived due to our protection,” reported HT.
Locals from Charkop village said that they had warned the government and mangrove cell while plating saplings in 2013. “We had told the officials that planting mangroves is not a good idea here because the soil is hard and the plants require mudflats to survive. Four years later, not a single sapling has survived,” said Vivek Keni, a Charkop village resident. As per the mangrove cell records, the cost of plating [1,000] saplings in one hectare cost Rs 2 lakh.
Commenting on the poor survival rate of sapling, wetland conservationist Nandkumar Pawar said, “These are not the only locations where mangrove saplings have died. We are currently surveying all plantation sites and will compile a detailed report.” Pawar recently sought information on the status of mangrove saplings under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Other activists also said the saplings were dying because of negligence.
“The first problem is that the [mangrove] cell is understaffed and lacks people to monitor these saplings. Secondly, the field officers lack basic scientific understanding or knowledge to restore such sites,” said Harish Pandey, activist and secretary, New Link Road Residents’ Forum.