You are on page 1of 12

History Mumbai Historical records indicate that there were several islands around Mumbai during 1670.

However, the Britishers, who were ruling the country identified the importance of these islands for commercial purpose. They deforested the fringing mangroves and reclaimed these islands into one continuous landmass, which later came to be known as "Greater Bombay". Since then the developmental and bsequently population pressure rapidly increased and being the coastal area, it took the toll of mangrove land. During the process of deforestation and reclamation, a few mangrove patches are still left in the heart of the city, which proves that today's megacity had a luxuriant past of mangrove forests (fig). Major mangroves are seen today in Mumbai along the Vasai Creek, Thane Creek, Manori and Malad, Mahim - Bandra, Versova, Siwari, Mumbra - Diva and few more places.

Importance of Mangroves for Mumbai

Mangroves represent the spirit of Mumbai they are plucky survivors. But each day, millions of citizens in Mumbai pass these hardy plants imagining they are little more than dirty, muddy weeds growing pointlessly along the shoreline. How little people understand just how important mangroves are to the quality of life of the citizens of Mumbai. By trapping silt, mangroves maintain the integrity of Mumbais shoreline. This is a vital service to the city of Mumbai as it is very prone to erosion, having been built on reclaimed land that is battered by the sea on all three sides. The recent rains in Mumbai and the disaster that followed demonstrated the consequence of tampering with the ecology of fragile ecosystems like mangroves. Had Mumbais Mithi river and Mahim creek mangroves not been destroyed by builders, fewer people would have died and the property damage would have been dramatically less. The Koli community in Mumbai worships mangroves because they know that these are breeding and nursery grounds for the marine organisms on which their sustenance depends.

Mangrove community of Mumbai In the early nineties, perhaps over 37 sq. km. of mangroves existed in Mumbai, largely in the Thane creek, Mahim, Versova, Gorai and Ghodbunder, with sporadic patches in places such as Bandra, Malabar Hill and Colaba. Mumbai has probably lost 40 per cent of all its mangroves in

the past decade or so, largely because of reclamation for housing, slums, sewage treatment and garbage dumps. Fortunately, thanks to the Godrej family, we still have excellent mangrove forests in Vikhroli (Link). Around 20 out of the 35 species of true mangroves found in India have been identified along the Maharashtra coast and 15 species of these are found in Mumbai. Because of the high salinity of the soil, something like 60 per cent of Mumbai mangroves comprise Avicennia marina. Nor surprisingly this species also tolerates pollution including heavy metals such as lead, mercury and chromium, all found in significant concentrations in the Mithi river.

Mangrove Ecology........... Where do Mangroves occur The richest mangrove communities occur in tropical and sub-tropical areas, i.e., between the 30N and 30S latitudes where the water temperature is greater than 24C in the warmest month, where the annual rainfall exceeds 1250mm and mountain ranges greater than 700m high are found close to the coast. Mangroves are found practically in almost all the continents, excepting Europe, the Arctic and Antarctic. Luxuriant patches of mangroves are found on all the

other continents but the best mangroves are found in Asia, especially in India and Bangladesh the Sunderbans are the largest mangrove forest in the world both in size as well as biodiversity The total area of mangroves in India is about 6,740 sq. km, which is about 7% of the world's total area of mangroves. Of the total mangroves 80% are present along the east coast, mostly forming the Sunderbans, Bhitarkanika and the Andaman & Nicobar mangroves. The Gangetic Sunderbans is about 4,000 sq. km whereas Andaman & Nicobar is about 700 sq km. Besides, large rivers like Mahanadi, Krishna, Cauveri, Godavari also harbour major mangroves in their estuarine regions. The remaining 20% mangroves are scattered on the west coast from Kutch to Kerala. The reason for such a restricted mangrove cover is the peculiar coastal structure and the nature of estuaries formed by the relatively small and non-perennial rivers except Narmada and Tapi. How do they establish? Under the right conditions like the formation of a mud-flat, growth of mangroves is initiated. Stabilization of mud-flats is a preliminary process in the establishment of mangroves. Pioneer plant species initiate this process. The roots of these plants help in binding the soil and also help the establishment of micro-organisms which further help in stabilizing the area. Stabilization starts from the land side and gradually shifts towards the sea. The pioneer plants are species like Porterasia coarctata and some members of the Cyprus family. These are slowly replaced by other mangrove plants and then these mangroves gradually spread towards the sea. Once mangroves grow, the submerged banks are fully stabilized. Then the plants slowly reach a stage which is called the climax vegetation. A climax vegetation of mangroves is represented by the complete circle of life where there are different species of plants, animals (both terrestrial and aquatic) and micro-organisms forming an ecosystem called the tropical salt marsh or the mangrove ecosystem. In case the sediments are not stabilized, submerged banks are washed out. Thousands of deltas are formed and washed out every year before they can be stabilized. In the Gangetic delta this situation is quite common. Zonation in Mangroves Mangal along a tropical bay characteristically shows zonation. In India this zonation may be very distinctive (east coast of India) or merging (west coast of India). A very broad and general distinction would be:1. Proximal Zone (Front mangroves) This zone is towards water front, subject to regular tidal effect where intensity of soil accumulation and inundation is a continuous process. The mangrove species in this zone are specially adapted with stilt roots, prop roots for stability and anchorage. Main species with these features are Rhizophora apiculata and Rhizophora mucronata. On rocky and coral reef substrata, Avicennia Spp, Sonneratia Caseolaris are also found. Both Avicennia and Sonneratia produce pneumatophores. 2. Middle Zones (Mid mangroves) Above the Rhizophora/ Avicennia line luxuriant group of Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, B. Cylindrica, Lumnitzera racemosa, L. littoralis, Ceriops tagal and Aegiceras corniculatum occur. Ceriops and

Bruguiera develop a strong hold fast in the form of knee roots or bent roots as a special adoption for supporting the erect bole. 3. Distal Zone (Back mangroves) Towards island area mangroves like Excoecaris agallocha, Heritiera littoralis and Xylocarnus spp occur. Both Heritiera and Xylocarpus produce buttresses. Generally the salinity is on lower side in this zone occurring towards hill sides where run off of fresh water is for a prolonged period. The duration of tidal submersion is low in this zone compared to front mangroves.

However, the zonation in mangroves is not so simple and varies from place to place. Every species has its own level of salinity tolerance. Estuaries on east coast show distinct zonation. The high salinity range on the east coast estuaries may be the principal reason for distinct zonation there. The range and force of tidal action also play a determinant role in creation and maintenance of zones as distribution of seeds or propagules is influenced by tidal action. Also, tides do influence the salinity in an estuary. Mangrove Adaptations Mangrove plants live in hostile environmental conditions such as high salinity, hypoxic (oxygen deficient) waterlogged soil strata, tidal pressures, strong winds and sea waves. To cope up with such a hostile environment mangroves exhibit highly evolved morphological and physiological adaptations to extreme conditions. Do mangroves need salt? The answer is no. Mangroves are facultative halophytes, i.e., the presence of salt in the environment is not necessary for the growth of mangroves and they can grow very well in freshwater. One particular advantage to growing in a salty environment is the lack of competition! Only a limited number of plants have invested evolutionary energy into adapting to intertidal conditions. In the optimum conditions of a tropical rainforest, diversity is great and competition fierce. How do Mangroves cope with salt

Coping with salt The first line of defense for many mangroves is to prevent much of the salt from entering by filtering it out at root level. Some species can exclude more than 90 percent of salt in seawaters (Rhizophora, Ceriops, Bruguiera species are all salt-excluders.) Another method is the retention of water in the leaves giving rise to leaf succulence in many species, viz., Sonneratia apetala, S. alba, Lumnitzera recemosa, Salvadora persica etc. These species show remarkably high concentration of salts stored in their tissue. To avoid the toxic effects of salts, these plants absorb a large quantity of water for dilution of salt.

The leaves of many mangroves have special salt glands, which are among the most active salt-secreting systems known. It is quite possible to see and/or taste the salt on the leaf surfaces of species, which choose this method. (Examples of salt-secretors include Avicennia, Sonneratia and Acanthus). Fourth method of coping with salt is to concentrate it in bark or in older leaves which carry it with them when they drop. (Lumnitzera, Avicennia, Ceriops and Sonneratia species all use this) . Specialized Root System in Mangroves Specialized Root System The major plant species forming the mangrove ecosystem have aerial roots, commonly prop roots or even stilt roots (Example: Rhizhophora spp). Stilt roots serve, of course, to anchor the plants, but also are important in aeration, because the mangrove mud tends to be anaerobic. Rhizophora spp (Red mangroves) have prop roots descending from the trunk and branches, providing a stable support system. Other mangrove species, including the white mangroves (A. marina) obtain stability with an extensive system of shallow, underground cable roots that radiate out from the central trunk for a considerable distance in all directions: pneumatophores extend from these cable roots. Breathing Roots (Pneumatophores) : Special vertical roots, called pneumatophores, form from lateral roots in the mud, often projecting above soil (to a height of 20-30 cms, e.g. Avicennia, Sonneratia ) permitting some oxygen to reach the oxygen-starved submerged roots. Roots also can exhibit development of air cavities in root tissues, designs that aid oxygenation of the tissues. The density, size and number of pneumatophores vary per tree. They are green and contain chlorophyll.
Importance of Mangroves

a. Buffer Zone between the land and sea. b. Protect the land from erosion. c. Play an invaluable role as nature's shield against cyclones, ecological disasters and as protector of shorelines.

d. Breeding and nursery grounds for a variety of marine animals. e. Harbour a variety of lifeforms like invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and even mammals like tigers. f. Good source of timber, fuel and fodder. g. Main source of income generation for shoreline communities like fisherfolk. h. Save the marine diversity, which is fast diminishing. i. Purify the water by absorbing impurities and harmful heavy metals and help us to breathe a clean air by absorbing pollutants in the air. j. Potential source for recreation and tourism.

Threats to Mangrove ecosystem...........

Large demographic pressure is exerting tremendous stress on the coastal environment. The main culprit in the destruction of mangroves is man. To achieve harmful supremacy over nature, human have destroyed this magnificent ecosystem almost irreparably. Land reclamations and industrial effluents are the major causes of mangroves degradation. Systematic dumping of all kinds of waste and debris in the mangrove areas destroys them. Land reclamations and industrial effluents are the major causes of mangroves degradation. This waste/debris creates a barrier preventing the sea water from entering the mangroves and eventually kills the mangroves. In many instances, this is done intentionally to reclaim land for construction activity. There is an urgent need to stop this systematic degradation of mangroves.

Major threats Land reclamations for construction activity, aquaculture, agriculture, tourism Industrial and domestic pollution Port development Dumping of all kinds of waste and debris Deforestation for fuel wood Over harvesting of marine resources

Picture 2004

Slums have taken over the area in 2010 (circled)

Shanoor Seervai for The Wall Street Journal Mangroves in Mumbai. An aerial view of either side of a creek in Oshiwara, a neighborhood in Mumbai, shows the sharp contrast between protected and destroyed mangroves. On one side, Versovas thick green forests stretch to the sea. On the other is barren Oshiwara, where a ring of mangroves about two meters wide separates a plot of reclaimed land (that was once mangrove forest) from the street. The land was allegedly bought over 15 years ago for a golf course and hotel, but has since been tied up in litigation and remains vacant, according to an Oshiwara resident. The crunch for space has exacerbated the conflict between the environment and urban development. The latter has usually won, but the costs have been disastrous. Monsoon floods in Maharashtra in 2005 killed nearly 1,000 people in Mumbai alone. This was in part because the Mithi Rivers natural drainage system had been repeatedly diverted and blocked, says Mr. Goenka. The rivers floodplains were destroyed to build the Bandra Kurla complex, a cluster of commercial and residential buildings. [They] destroy the mangroves, then allow housing to come up, and then have to build a sea wall to protect the housing, says Mr. Goenka. A proposed international airport in Navi Mumbai, a planned township east of the city, has been delayed because it hasnt received environmental clearance from the government. More than 400 acres of mangroves and 1,000 acres of mudflats would have to be destroyed to build the airport, says Mr. Goenka. Im not in a position to comment on the need for another airport but if some mangroves have to be sacri ficed, it has to be understood in perspective, said N. Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests in Maharashtra.

Mangroves are plants with height of about 2 to 5 meters generally found near coastal area, This are naturally developed plants and plays important role on plant earth like prevent soil washout during flood, prevents flooding, absorbs pollutants etc.

Why are Mangroves in Mumbai Important ? They basically act as buffers along citys coastal areas preventing bay city from erosion as it is almost covered by water from 3 sides. Also that Mumbai is developing and new construction of buildings are in, Mangroves in equal quantity is must to balance the ecosystem of the city. Mangroves absorbs waste pollutants and heavy metals too like mercury,chromium etc which are part of industrial waste that joints Mithi River which has a good amount of mangroves. Mithi River and Mangroves As said Mithi Nadi plays a significant role saving Mumbai from flood, It is a prime source of Mangroves working around to stabilize the eco system. But due to huge development in surrounding areas like BKC, Kurla etc the Mithi river was cut short and so the havoc of July 26, 2005 flood that badly affected Mumbai. Where are Mangroves located ? Locations like Mahim creek, Versova (Andheri), Thane, Navi Mumbai, Bandra, Malabar Hill, Colaba and Far suburbs like

Dahisar, Bhayander, Vasai Creek, Gorai

creek and Naigaon West are few of the main areas where mangroves can be found. According to
Coastal Zone management Plan, About 50 meters from coastline area is declared as Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) which dont allow any kind of development in the limits. Carter Road is one of the location where positive sign of growth was seen since last decade. Important Details

In 2005, Bombay High court banned and freeze destruction of Mangroves in Maharashtra and construction within 50 meters of CRZ area. Mangroves society of India (MSI) and Conservation Action Trust (CAT) are two major organizations who strongly protest against destruction of Mangroves in Mumbai city. Live video footage and online campaigns helped also to banns dumping debris on and around Mangroves areas as almost 40% of mangroves was destructed because of such reasons since a decade now.