Mangroves destruction to blame for flooding in Mumbai, says experts

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Representative Image Photo: PTI

Destruction of mangroves and unplanned constructions are responsible for flooding in Mumbai every year after heavy rains, say environment activists and town planners.

Mangroves absorb excess water but they are being destroyed in Mumbai in the guise of infrastructure development, city-based environmentalist Debi Goenka told PTI.

“Destruction of mangroves has definitely been one of the major causes of flooding, since the land reclaimed from mangroves is now blocking the rain water from flowing out into the sea. The capacity of mangroves to absorb flood water has also reduced,” he said.

The biggest problem today is that government agencies that are responsible for the protection of mangroves are busy “destroying them in the guise of infrastructure development”, he claimed.

“To construct a road, transmission lines, or a freight corridor, the natural infrastructure – mangroves – provided to us free of cost by nature is being destroyed,” he rued.
“We need to seriously review our priorities in this era of climate change, global warming and sea level rise. Do we need more roads or do we need to keep the mangroves
intact?” Goenka said.

Similar concerns have also been raised by agencies like the Mangrove Society of India (MSI), which in its 2019 report stated that 75 cases of mangrove destruction have been reported on Maharashtras coast line, of which the maximum share is of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

The society has been documenting and conducting various researches on mangroves since 1990 across the country. “When it comes to destroying mangroves in the name of
some development work, there is never an alternative or any plan to compensate it. The approach of the government or other agencies is- it’s a waste land,” an official from MSI said.

They completely ignore the fact that destruction of such land or the vegetation will have some consequences on our lives, the official said. Town planner Sulakshana Mahajan said Mumbai does receive excess rains, but with some use of technology, solutions can be sought. “Mangroves play a vital role in reducing floods and the corrosion of land from sea waves. But, someone needs to understand it and work accordingly, she said.

She said there is technology available that can simulate the impact of a proposed construction at a particular site and help in understanding possible problems it may lead
to. But, the government and political forces choose to ignore such approach and simply go ahead with constructions, she said.

Mangroves sequester carbon, provide oxygen, clean the sewage, absorb heavy metals, provide breeding grounds for fish and other biodiversity, and also protect the land from extreme climatic events. Can we afford to keep cutting our mangroves? I think not, Goenka said. He said the damage being caused to the natural drainage systems, and “ill-planned” projects such as BRIMSTOWAD (Brihanmumbai Storm Water Disposal) are actually making the flood situation worse.

“The Bandra Kurla Complex is a classic example of what should never have been allowed,” he added.

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