Maharashtra has officially notified 15,087.6 hectares of mangrove land across the state as reserved forest, the first state to do so. “Only mangroves on government land have been notified as reserved forest. The land will now be transferred to the forest department, which will be responsible for its protection and conservation. Earlier, we needed to inform the collector for any action to be taken,“ N Vasudevan, chief conservator, mangrove conservation cell, stated.
Mangroves on most private forest land are still to be notified as reserved forest. While initially 1,850 hectares of private land was proposed to be notified in Mumbai, the grievance redressal committee set up by the state allowed 1,775 hectares to be notified. A PIL has been filed challenging the process of notification. Another 10,000 hectares of private mangrove land, therefore, remains to be notified, an official said. It was in 2005 that the Bombay high court had directed the state government to declare mangroves as forests. Thereafter, the state government set up the mangrove conservation cell to demarcate mangrove areas. The cell obtained satellite maps of 2005 after the order was delivered to begin the demarcation and notification process.In case of Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, which is part of Thane district, the process was completed by 2008. “Two months ago, we notified 114 hectares in Thane district, 2,908 hectares in Palghar and the remaining 478 hectares in Bhiwandi have now been finally notified,“ said Vasudevan.
The biennial study conducted by the Forest Survey of India, Dehradun, showed that the state's mangrove cover, which was static at 186 sq km between 2005 and 2013, had gone up to 222 sq km. This was the highest increase in mangrove cover recorded by any state in the country during the two-year period between 2013 and 2015.