In what environmentalists have described as one of Nature’s wonders, over 5,000 mangroves that had been destroyed during the expansion of a highway in Uran have now fully grown back, with the restoration of intertidal water.
In 2018, water flow along the NH-348 was blocked during highway widening work. Construction debris was allegedly dumped, blocking the inter-tidal water flow.
“The area was dug up and soil, stones and other material was dumped in the space,” environmentalists alleged. The stagnant, murky water proved poisonous for the mangroves and the 5,000- plus plants were destroyed, with the locals cutting them for firewood, said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation.
Green activists brought it to the notice of the high court-appointed Mangrove Protection and Conservation Committee, which called for a spot inspection report. CIDCO officials, who had accompanied the joint inspection team of the revenue and forest departments, promised to write to the NHAI. “We met the then Konkan Divisional Commissioner and mangrove committee chairman Jagdish Patil, who promised action,” recalled Kumar.
The NGO also sent an email to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari. “Apart from Uran, these mangroves also protect several container stations in the area from high tides and soil erosion. Our pleas to restore the water flow were ignored for a long time,” said Nandakumar Pawar, Head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishthan. It also adversely impacted the fishing community, which thrived on the tidal water flow, Pawar said.
“Finally, the water flow was restored last year after removing the debris and today, mangroves are breathing and flourishing at the site, an immensely pleasing sight, after the disaster four years ago,” Pawar said.
The culprits responsible for the death of the mangroves are yet to be brought to book. The revenue department, which filed FIRs in other cases, has yet to take legal action in the NH-348 incident, Kumar said.
The activists once again wrote to the mangrove committee, which is empowered to take action, Pawar said. In yet another site at Pagote in Uran, mangroves across five acres on the NMSEZ site were chopped in 2019. However, these returned last year, as the water flow was not disturbed in this case.
These two cases prove that mangroves grow on their own without human intervention and if the tidal water flow is intact, said Kumar. Thus, the exercise of compensatory plantation in lieu of mangrove destruction for infrastructure projects is a waste of money, Pawar said. The destruction of mudflats also badly disturbs the biodiversity, he said.
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