The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) has filed an affidavit in the Bombay High Court stating that the boundary walls constructed by the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) may have obstructed the flow of saline sea-water,essential for the survival of the mangroves at Seri.
Following a newspaper report,the High Court had taken suo-motu action against the allegedly large-scale destruction of mangroves at the Sewri bay,possibly owing to the leakage from the thermal coal depots on MbPTs land. Desired salinity of water required for the optimum growth of mangroves is not available due to reduced nutrient /sediment flow because of diminished tidal flow on both sides of the nulla and the area between Reti Bunder and Ghaslet Bunder, the affidavit filed by Ashok Kumar Jha,member-secretary of MCZMA stated.
Replying to a report filed by a team that inspected the mangrove stretch in February,Jha contended that the flow of saline water and nutrients to the mangroves had been blocked by the boundary walls and bunds constructed by the MbPT. The affidavit states that the boundary walls apparently prevented the tidal movement and horizontal flow of saline water,which has led to the loss of salinity of the water and supply of nutrients.
Jhas affidavit has also mentioned that a team of officials from Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB),that visited the mangrove site separately,and had found the salinity of water in the area to be 1.25 per cent, which is well below the normal level of 33 per cent. The level of dissolved oxygen in the water was also found below detectable.
The affidavit,however,mentions the temporary storage of thermal coal in the MbPT depots could not have been the only reason for destruction of the mangrove cover in the area,as the mangroves around two of the four depots were found to be in a healthy environment.
The MCZMA has,however,suggested that holes can be drilled into the boundary walls at certain distances to allow the saline water to flow into the mangrove cover and restore the damage caused to it. Although the thermal coal depots may not have caused damage to the mangroves,the MbPT may have to shut down the four coal depots and remove the boundary walls,as the MCZMA has stated that the Sewri mudflat area falls within Coastal Regulation Zone – I where coal storage as well as construction of boundary walls disturbing the natural setting,is prohibited.
The court is scheduled to hear the case on May 8.