Debris in Mumbai Wetlands Killing Mangroves, Raising Flood Risk

Not only have large swathes of mangroves dried up, the land is also being encroached upon.

My Report
3 min read

Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui
Video Producer: Aastha Gulati
Reporter: Ankita Sinha

During my visits to various wetland areas ie intertidal areas in Mumbai, I have noticed that Wadala in specific has a huge water body that is attracting wetland birds. Unfortunately, these areas are getting filled up by rampant debris dumping since 2019. Roads have been created so that trucks can come in and dump more and more debris into the water bodies, thereby blocking the tidal flow to the land.

Residents of Wadala have also been noticing an increasing presence of trucks in the area that are dumping debris. The entire belt, from port trust chowki to IMAX, is getting reclaimed along with the water bodies on the side. On the other side, where the Mahul-Wadala road is, debris is being dumped inside the salt pans.

I have tried several times to draw attention to this but authorities are yet to take action. Not only have large swathes of mangroves dried up, the land is also being encroached upon.

If this debris is not removed and creek water restored, there will be at least 400 new slum structures in the coming months, if not weeks.

We had sent pictures of the reclamation when it was underway to the Mangrove Cell and the Konkan divisional commissioner and expected some action to be taken.

Debris dumping on the roads. 
Debris dumping on the roads. 
(Photo Courtesy: Stalin Dayanand)

However, the reclamation has continued unabated and a huge hill of debris has been piled up on the site. Last month, an FIR was finally filed and some action might be taken further down the road.

Where is the Debris Coming From?

Debris is being dumped from across Mumbai, from wherever people are renovating their houses or buildings are being demolished or chawls reconstructed. Despite having deputed/designated sites for debris dumping, people take the shortcut.

Debris dumping on salt pans.
Debris dumping on salt pans.
(Photo Courtesy: Stalin Dayanand)

They pay the tempo driver Rs 1,000-2,000, who may then pay the local slum mafia Rs 500 or so to dump wherever he wishes.

We must remember that it is a habitat for birds, a feeding ground for birds, and marine life is also dependent on it.

If you allow mangroves and wetlands to get destroyed like this, Mumbai will face severe flooding, as rainwater will not drain into these areas freely. This will lead to back-filling of canals, causing waterlogging in the city.

Piles of debris.
Piles of debris.
(Photo Courtesy: Stalin Dayanand)

Authorities Pass the Buck

The jurisdiction for these lands is of the landowner ie the salt department of India in this case. I feel they are least bothered to protect their lands. When it comes to the protection of mangroves, it is the duty of the forest department, but some areas belong to the revenue department which have not been handed over to the forest department. So, they are claiming a lack of jurisdiction.

So, the forest department, the Collector, the salt department, the Konkan divisional commissioner and members of the environment department, all of them are responsible for this. They all need to get their act together.

The Bombay High Court had asked a Wetlands Grievance Redressal Committee on 10 November to survey the land for violations and prepare a report. These acts are in violation of the orders of the High Court of Bombay passed in PIL 87 of 2013 and PIL 87 of 2006.

We have to be careful and need to take urgent steps to remove all the debris and free these areas.

(The Quint has reached out to the Wetlands Grievance Committee, the Mangroves Cell, and the Collector, Mumbai for a response. It will be added once received.)

(All ‘My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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