The state’s mangrove cell has only two boats that cover the vegetation on Maharashtra’s 720km-long coastline. In fact, those boats are hardly used for surveillance purposes. Documents with dna obtained under the Right to Information Act in 2012 had revealed that the cell had purchased two patrol boats, one anchored at Mumbai for Rs16.29 lakh while the other at Malvan for Rs13.05 lakh.
According to the Mumbai boat’s log details, it has barely been used. In October last year, it was used only for two days, followed by one day in November (between Gateway of India and Mandwa) and for six days in December (to Mandwa, Thane, Versova, Airoli Bridge and Vashi).
In January and February this year, Khanderi, Elephanta, Mahul Village, Vashi bridge were covered over six days. After February it was directly used in November 2013.
In February 2013, The Mangrove Cell staff had taken the boat off Mumbai’s coast and eventually damaged its propeller in the shallow waters. As a result repair work had to be undertaken and was kept away from seas for months. In Malvan, the patrol boat has not been used for almost a year now, showing the lack of seriousness by the forest department to protect the mangroves. The last time it was sailed was in the beginning of 2013, and has been kept out of the waters since.
“These two boats are small and not meant to be taken to the high sea, for which bigger ones are needed. The one at Mumbai is primarily for Thane Creek, while other areas of the coast can be accessed by road,” said N Vasudevan, Chief Conservator of Forest, Mangrove Cell.
When asked why the vessel is not used regularly, Vasudevan said, “Usually there aren’t any untoward cases, but whenever needed we do use them.”
Importance of mangroves
Mangroves protect coastal areas from erosion, storm and tsunamis. The plantations also host commercially important species of fishes and crustaceans like crabs, shrimps, lobsters, etc.