Maharashtra’s mangrove cover increases manifold
As Maharashtra’s mangrove cover reflected a significant increase in a decade’s time, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde announced that all stretches of mangroves would be brought under the ‘Reserved Forest’ category.
Being the first state in India to establish a dedicated wing for the protection and conservation of mangroves in 2012, Maharashtra has witnessed a 72% increase in the state’s mangrove cover across seven coastal districts from 2012 (186 sq. km) onwards to 2022 (324 sq km), a net increase of 132 sq km over 10 years.
Mangrove cover can be seen in coastal Konkan districts of Mumbai City, Mumbai Suburban, Palghar, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg.
So far, 19,500 hectares have been notified as Reserved Forest (the highest protection status) under section 4 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Maharashtra is also the first state in India to declare ‘Sonneratia alba’ as the State mangrove tree.
‘Mangrove is very significant for the coastal region of Maharashtra so wherever the Mangrove area is not under the control of forest department or the area is controlled by forest department but not yet notified, will all be brought under the Reserved Forest in the coming one year and a notification will also be issued in this regard,’ Shinde said.
‘Various livelihood activities started aligning with mangroves’ protection. Whatever nature has given us, it’s important we too care for nature. For us, sustainability is not merely for speeches, but of the subject of action,’ added Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Coinciding with the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem (26 July), the Mangrove Cell of Maharashtra State Forest Department (MFD) presented the work that it had carried out in the last 10 years.
‘Mangroves are important for protection from natural calamities,’ said Shinde. Mentioning some of the activities undertaken in the state like coral transplantation, organising turtle festival, Marambalpada ecotourism centre and crocodile safari in Ratnagiri, he called for identifying and developing new ecotourism sites along coastal Maharashtra.
Fadnavis emphasised that the sustainable livelihood programmes being implemented by the Mangrove Cell and Mangrove Foundation have changed the perception of the local people towards mangroves and that this programme has created ‘Kandalvan Mitra’ (Mangrove Friends) all over the coast of Maharashtra. He also mentioned that the effective protection of mangroves was only possible through the participation of the local community in the conservation activity and it was indeed commendable that such people (individuals and Self-Help Groups) were felicitated today by the MFD.
The Mangrove Cell and Mangrove Foundation have made significant progress over the past ten years in a variety of areas, including the development of over 125 villages along the Konkan coast that are now earning over 85 lakh under livelihood schemes, especially during the trying times of Covid-19. In addition, nine eco-tourism villages have been developed along coastal Maharashtra for better mangrove conservation and habitat protection.