January 14, 2022 1:00:40 am
THERE HAS been a marginal increase in the mangrove cover in the state since 2019, as per the Forest Survey of India (FSI). According to India State of Forest Report (ISFR), FSI’s biennial report released on Thursday, the mangrove cover in the state is spread across 324 square km, a 4 square kilometres rise since 2019.
The report, which assesses the forest and tree resources of the country, says while the overall mangrove cover has increased in the state, Mumbai suburbs recorded the highest loss of mangroves among the six coastal districts at 1.08 square km.
Mangroves are an important refuge of coastal bio-diversity and also act as bio-shields against extreme climate events such as flash floods. Mangrove cover is also divided as very dense, moderate and open mangrove cover and the state has moderately dense and open mangrove covers.
According to the report, Mumbai city has a mangrove cover of 2 square kilometres. In the Mumbai suburbs, it is spread across 63.22 sq kms — down from 64.30 sq kms in 2019.
Across the state, Raigad has the highest concentration of mangrove spread across 126.99 sq kms, an increase of 6 sq km from 2019. In 2019 too, Raigad recorded
the highest increase in mangrove cover by 14.97 sq km from 2017.
According to the Maharashtra mangrove cell, the involvement of locals in mangrove conservation, eco-tourism in these districts has helped in preserving mangrove cover. The report attributed the increase to natural regeneration.
The second-largest mangrove cover in the state is found in Thane which has recorded a decrease of 0.98 sq km. In Sindhudurg, the mangrove cover has dropped by 0.12 sq km, while Ratnagiri logged an increase of 0.18 sq km in the past two years.
The Mangrove cell expedited the procedure of notifying mangroves as reserved forest and taking possession of land reserved as mangrove under its ambit. The process has helped in protecting the mangroves from destruction.
Since 2005, the state government has taken possession of 143.23 sq km. Out of the total, in the last one year (till June 2021), the Mangrove Cell in coordination with the state Forest and Environment department, has notified 98 sq km of mangrove area under Section 20 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, declaring it as reserve forests.
Experts believed an increase in the mangrove cover in the city limits is not plausible but providing it protection will help in conserving the salt-tolerant tree species. “Thane municipal corporation is primarily responsible for the decrease in the district as they have started all the waterfront projects on the mangroves. In Thane- Bhiwandi belt, Mumbra, Kopar, there is massive mangrove destruction. One reason I can think of for the decrease in the mangrove cover in the suburbs and Thane is varied infrastructure projects – trans-harbour link, Vashi bridge expansion,” said Stalin D, member of the High Court-appointed Mangrove protection committee.
According to FSI data, mangrove cover in the state remained constant at 186 sq km from 2005 till 2013. Then a sudden jump to 222 sq km was registered in 2015. The process of mapping mangrove cover involves periodic analysis of vegetation through satellite imagery and then comparing it with previous vegetation.
Similar to the last report, the tree cover, which estimates the presence of trees outside the forest areas, has seen an encouraging improvement in the state. Maharashtra has the highest tree cover at 12,108 sq km.
As per the report, in Maharashtra, the open forest category has seen a marginal decline of 10 sq km but an increase of 13 sq km and 17 sq km in ‘very dense
forest and ‘moderately dense forest’ respectively — the cumulative forest cover has increased by 20 sq km.
Dense forests are defined as those where the tree canopy density is 70 per cent or above while moderately dense forests are those with tree canopy density between 40 and 70 per cent and open forest area is when the canopy density is between 10 and 40 per cent.
While Mumbai has the second-largest tree cover among the seven major cities in the country at 110.77 sq km, it has marginally increased by 9 per cent in the last decade, states the report. The maximum increase in the green cover was in Hyderabad and Delhi, while Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Kolkata recorded a loss.
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