Activists fighting to save pristine belts of mangroves across Mumbai wants BMC to deploy dedicated staff for mangroves — a move they feel will not only add more teeth but also go a long way for better protection as well as management of the mangroves and wetlands in the city.”We have written to the municipal commissioner that there is an urgent need of dedicated officials to be appointed zone-wise in the wards with mangrove cover, who will attend to cases of environment violations as Mumbai is constantly witnessing rapid destruction of wetlands and mangroves. It is always observed that the initial corrective steps from BMC is delayed due to lack of trained manpower or dedicated staff to tackle environmental violations,” said Harish Pandey, activist and president of New Link Road Residents Forum (NLRRF) that has been successful in saving several stretches of mangroves in the Dahisar and Borivli regions.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former mayor and councillor Shubha Raul, who is involved in raising the issue of mangrove land being reclaimed by dumping debris, supported the demand. “What is the harm if BMC also cracks a whip on those found destroying mangroves? In fact, Chennai has set up a full-fledged team dedicated to protect mangroves. So, why can’t BMC have one,” she questioned.A senior BMC official said: “It’s not that BMC can’t do much as on several occasions BMC demolished encroachments and booked the trucks dumping debris on wetlands. It should ideally be the responsibility of the environment department at every ward level but they are only given responsibilities to manage garbage in the wards.”
Sindhudurg has some good news. And guess who is bringing it? The good old otter.For one, the presence of the very shy, semi-aquatic animals in an area indicates that the water quality there is good, say experts. An ongoing study has found otter presence in all the 14 creeks in Sindhudurg.“The aim of the study is to understand the smooth-coated and small-clawed otters, their habitat and food preferences, broad ecology and threats to them,” said Dr Satish Pande, director of Ela Foundation.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The one-year study, Status of Otters in the Mangroves habitats of Sindhudurg, is being conducted by the Pune-based Ela Foundation with the State Mangrove Cell as part of a Government of India-United Nations Development Project (UNDP).The study started almost six months ago and it has finished surveying all the 14 creeks, some of which are as long as around 45-km long, said Pande.“Otters are mainly active around dawn and dusk and hence we have to track otter dens by finding their faecal matter and traditional sites with the help of local fishermen. Locating these sites is quite hard and our team is using boats as well as travelling on foot,” said Pande. Camera traps are also used to study and document their behaviour.As per the international code, the team has an intensive survey unit (ISU) to study otter habitat in the mangroves of Sindhudurg. It has found otters ranging from a minimum of two to a raft of 12 in the area. This is just the initial finding. A lot more study has to be done on this front. About the immediate threats, Pande said that, till a few years back, otters were poached for their furs, which were in great demand in China and a few other countries. So much so that for every tiger skin the forest department used to seize, there would be 10 otter fur. “Now poaching is almost nil, but otters face threat from water pollution and habitat destruction, especially destruction of mangroves. One of the major threats is sand-dredging,” he said.N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests and head of the Mangrove Cell, said that there is no comprehensive data available on otters in mangrove habitats. Otters are not only on top of the marine food chain but also indicate water quality. “It’s always been our priority to document and study all kinds of marine biodiversity in the waters as well as mangroves of Sindhudurg so that we can increase steps to conserve them,” he said.