Among the diverse forest types in India, mangroves are one of the most prominent vegetation. Mangroves are trees evolved to survive in coastal conditions with salt water immersion.
Their aerial root system and waxy leaves serve two primary purposes. The roots are adapted to breathe and provide nutrition even when their base ground is waterlogged, and the waxy leaves have stomata (or breathing pores) on the underside allowing the plants to retain their nutrition in these conditions.
These dense forest systems are home to several species of fish, crabs, and tiny birds. And as we learnt after the 2004 floods, mangroves are also amazing natural defences to the flood-prone areas in which they thrive!
Mumbai is home to such mangroves in Marve near Malad. Many parts of the 5800 hectares of mangroves in Mumbai, unfortunately, are covered in human-induced trash. An NGO, collaborating with several schools decided to act on it.
Vanashakti, an environment NGO in Mumbai started with educating school children about the importance of mangroves and their present condition. Students and staff from the Kendriya Vidyalaya, INS Hamla school participated in this activity.
They were joined by government officials too!
On Friday, the brigade of 56 people started collecting the plastic that was suffocating the mangrove trees.
Madhavi Sawant, the project office at Vanashakti told Hindustan Times, “We found plastic trash that had washed into the mangroves during high tide accounted for maximum garbage stuck in the mangroves.”
All the volunteers together filled 13 large bags with trash that accounted for 350 kgs! The efforts put in by the volunteers for nine hours helped clear one hectare of mangrove lands!
Three mangrove cell officers were present in the forest during the activity to ensure that the children working are safe, and to overlook the process. Prashant Deshmukh, who is the range forest officer of Maharashtra state mangrove cell told Hindustan Times, “Clearing plastic allows the trees to breathe, as their roots get choked by the plastic.”
The collected garbage was then handed over to the forest department to be sent to the municipal corporation for disposal.
Taking inspiration from this nine-hour activity, Deshmukh says that a hundred more people from Mumbai aim to clear out plastic from two more hectares of mangroves in Dahisar.
This initiative by Vanashakti and the Kendriya Vidyalaya school are certainly inspiring. Not only are the mangroves useful to humans in different ways, but they are also an integral part of the ecosystem surviving in India.
More power to initiatives like these that take steps to better the conditions!