The State Mangrove Cell, along with local fishing community and a local NGO, Vanashakti, carried out a garbage clean-up drive, removing tons of non-biodegradable trash from the mangroves at Bhandup pumping station last week. This was part of the annual clean-up.
Nathuram Kokare, Range Forest Officer, Thane creek Flamingo sanctuary and Mangroves Cell said: “The cleaning process is carried out on regular basis. This time, we cleaned the complete stretch of mangroves in Bhandup. It was a complete team work. We had the help of the local fishing community. We collect the garbage and send the trucks to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), who disposes these off.”
The BMC sends the waste to the solid waste management project at Kanjurmarg.
“The cleaning process is carried out across the coastal areas in Mumbai and its suburbs. We keep creating awareness about the same and in the past few years we received an overwhelming response from non-government organisation and local fish community who help in the process,” added Kokare.
It was not until 2012, that the Mahrashtra government came up with its Mangroves Cell dedicated towards protecting these mangroves. It was the local fishermen who had started the drive back in 2005.
Nandakumar Pawar, 60, a local fisherman and activist from Bhandup, who is the founder of Ek Vira Aai Pratisthan, has been carrying out this annual clean-up drive since the beginning. “Till 2005, we, the local fisherman were just aware about mangroves as trees near the sea. But the 2005 floods made us aware of its importance. While the entire Mumbai went under water, the stretch between Mulund and Vikhroli was saved thanks to the mangroves. From then on, we have taken it upon ourselves to clean the up the garbage from the area and ensure that the plastic waste doesn’t choke the mangrove,” said Pawar.
The complete waste dump at Deonar, Kanjurmarg and Kopri dumping station reaches the Thane creek and these are often found floating in the mangrove.
Marine life in creek areas can be devastated if mangroves are not protected. Hence it is vital for the fishing industry to take care of the mangroves for financial reasons as well. “The dirty water and the garbage were killing the fishes. Mangroves not only help curb water pollution, they are also breeding grounds for fishes. These save the small fish from the big ones and hence they prefer to breed here,” added Pawar.
However, today the fishermen are not alone in this drive. Apart from government help, there are also locals increasingly volunteering for these clean-up drives. Stalin D, the director of Vanshakti, an NGO, said: “Every year we inform our volunteer about the clean-up drive and students and corporators come in huge strength.”
“Many college students and environment activists join the drive every year. Even last week, when I posted about this year’s event on social networking, many people reached out to us offering help. But, keeping in mind the social distancing norms and the pandemic, we didn’t encourage too many volunteers this time,” added Pawar.
The stretches having mangrove cover were saved from the 2005 floods
Mangroves give carbon dioxide five times more than the normal trees.
Dumping waste in mangrove areas is punishable offence under sections of the Environment
Protection Act and Forest Conservation Act