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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Navi Mumbai Mangroves - More Than Just The Oil Spill

Ever since the oil spill happened, people have been talking about the harmful effects of the oil on the mangroves and how the green belt needs to be protected. Of course it is a good thing that people, and also the media and government, are realising the importance and value of our precious mangroves and discussing steps that may help its cause.

The oil spill has happened only now. But there is much that has been going on for a long time without being reported or being looked into. And even if something has been reported, no action has been taken in the required direction.

Mangroves are unique trees that can grow only in saline conditions. These not only help bind the soil and prevent flooding but also provide shelter to marine life, innumerable species of insects and certain reptiles (remember the 07-foot reptile that caused a ten-car-pile-up on the Palm Beach Road), as also birds and many migratory birds that visit us each year. And of course the fact also remains that these mangroves provide us with such a vast belt of greenery.

People who live near the mangroves are aware of the fact that the authorities have been turning a blind eye where there is definitely need for action. It is common knowledge that locals from the nearby slums as well as labourers living nearby have been chopping away the branches to use as fire for cooking. Not only that, the mangroves are being mercilessly hacked and even though the authorities have been informed about it many times, they simply choose to ignore the complaints.

One of the main functions of the mangroves is to help bind the soil and prevent flooding. This basic natural phenomenon has been blatantly put to shame as a concrete road (built illegally of course) now runs inside the entire length of the mangroves. And to add more insult to the face of those who claim to be a part of the authority, even a gate has been built on the main Palm Beach Road in Vashi, leading inside the mangroves – a gate without any walls around it!!! Granted, the authorities may not be aware of the other illegal acts going on inside the mangroves (though local residents will tell you much about it), but how can someone not see an entire gate and a proper functional road that came up all of a sudden inside the greens?

If - and they have been informed about it - the authorities would care to turn an eye towards the same, they would know that on this road many cars and tempos make forays into the mangroves in the dead of the night, or in hours when most of the world is asleep, only to return after some time, fully loaded, and moving away in different directions (there is always at least a group of three or four cars or tempos if not more, and also a few labourers) once they are out of the mangroves and hit the highway. Who knows what all comes in those tempos apart from the wood? Your guess is as good as mine.

Garbage is being slowly dumped in the mangroves, threatening to turn it into a huge garbage belt. Also, sudden fires have been seen erupting in the mangroves belt. Residents inform the police and fire brigade, but many times, as no one turns up, they have to take the initiative of trying to douse the fire on their own, while other times, it is left to die out on its own, leaving behind a trail of burnt residue. Also, the area near and around the mangroves is being illegally used for fish farming.

All this might not be such common knowledge among the general public as is the news about the oil spill and its said impact. Of course these things have not been so vigorously reported.

Thankfully, the younger generation and the various residents’ associations have been actively trying to do their bit to preserve our greens. Many schools have launched plantation drives. Ryan International in fact came up with an environment week where the students took part not only in plantation drives, but also marched to create awareness about global warming and citizen’s role in preventing it, and also collected signatures from people in support of saving our mangroves.

But unless and until the authorities wake up and get back their conscience, nothing will be as good as it should be.