With their three-year-long encroachment drive coming to an end, the Maharashtra Forest Department’s Mangrove Cell has begun work on erecting walls along the mangroves to prevent further encroachments. They have started by constructing a kilometre-long fence at Cheetah Camp in Turbe. “We have completed as many as 700-800 metres of the chain fence at Cheetah Camp. Now we will construct a protection wall for the mangroves in Vikhroli,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forests, Mangrove Cell.
The Cell will construct walls all along the mangrove forests in Mumbai. The walls will be constructed on the landward side, at a maximum distance of 50 metres from the mangroves. While most areas will have the chain fence, the sensitive areas that are more vulnerable will be protected by walls.
“We will be walling the entire 5,400-hectares of mangroves that are in our jurisdiction in Mumbai by constructing 30-km of wall. In Colaba, Malvani and other areas, which are likely to see future encroachments, we will build proper walls and not chain fencing. We are estimating a cost of at least Rs 60-70 crore,” said Makarand Ghodke, assistant conservator of forests.
Among the mangrove areas that are prone to encroachments are Colaba, Trombay, Charkop and Navi Mumbai. In the last three years, the Cell has removed over 6,000 encroachments, including commercial and residential hutments. “Now, we are left to clear encroachments only in Colaba and Wadala areas. We will clear those after monsoon,” said Vasudevan.
To prevent encroachers from returning, and to ensure the flow of tidal waters again, the Cell creates trenches in the mangrove patches after clearing the encroachments. “At some places, the mangroves come back on their own and in some areas, we have to intervene. At some places, we have put chowkis to monitor the area and prevent encroachments,” he added.
The Cell received permission for the construction from the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) in April last year, and is now in the process of procuring permissions from the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA). But any construction activity within 50 metres of mangroves requires permissions from the Bombay High Court. “We do not need permissions for the chain fencing. For the walls, we are in the process of procuring permissions from SEIAA. We will then approach the court,” added Ghodke, the assistant conservator of forests.