Thursday, July 31, 2014

Planting mangrove saplings. Elsie Gabriel. Mangrove ecosystem of Mumbai.

Mangrove ecosystem of Airoli,Mumbai.

Planting mangrove saplings. Elsie Gabriel.

By Elsie Gabriel.

Mumbai,India has had a rich and diverse ecosystem of mangrove forests, which were silently being destroyed in
 the past. In recent years, thanks to a national strategy these mangrove forests are being slowly restored
I have been on many mangroves tours all over the world, researching and studying these walking roots in
 Mauritius,Cairns, Bali,Thailand, Orissa, Kerala,Maldives and Sri Lanka, and our very own largest mangrove
 delta in the Sundarbans. Chasing mud skippers and red crabs have almost become a hobby with me, leave alone 
sliding and falling in the the the slush of the pure river/ocean clay...

It was wonderful joining the forest department of Maharashtra once again at Airoli Mumbai, planting 
saplings in the rain and learning more about how mangrove trees can be regenerated.
The reason why its important to promote commitment to mangrove protection is to defend the mangrove zones
 from local shrimp and fish farmers, also protect the coast buffers from sewage and pollution as well as protect
 Mumbai’s coastal inhabitants from the ravages of tsunamis and storms. These submerged, coastal forests act 
as buffers against the sea, reducing potentially devastating waves into harmless, centimetre-high ripples.
For new nature enthusiasts,Mangroves are tropical plants that are usually found growing in wetlands, 
swamps and along warm-weather coastlines. Planting mangroves saplings is not easy. The entire watershed 
has to be studied and seedlings have to be watched and protected.Right amount fo water and sunshine
 both have to aid their growth. 

 For that reason, it’s important to plant trees along the island coastline to improve forest cover and ensure the functions of protection.The delicate balance of the ecosystem  either accept the new saplings or reject them. The successful restoration of a system of mangrove forests can help protect coastal forests, enabling the people to stabilize their life based on the forest resources without destroying the mangrove plantations.
Mangrove ecosystems are highly productive but extremely sensitive and fragile.  
Believe me...Millions of people right here in Mumbai pass by mangrove zones, shrubs and forests without
 realizing its worth and pass them off as filthy areas with small bushy trees.....Mangrove forests are undergoing
 constant seasonal, due to their dynamic nature and through various natural and biotic influences. 
Mangrove forests not only support coastal marine life but also protect the coast from erosion and serve
 as breeding, feeding and nursery grounds for estuarine and marine organisms. 

 Therefore, monitoring mangrove habitat is an essential component in coastal marine ecological studies and coastal management. Traditional field surveys inside mangrove swamps are quite cumbersome.Remote Sensing which emerges as a valuable tool for fast, efficient and accurate means of information retrieval to detect causes, extent and modification of structural changes over time. The information gained is utilized for effective planning and management of mangrove forests. Climate change, rising sea level and increasing intensity of rainfall make the city vulnerable to natural calamities. The Mangrove cell here in Mumbai India needs to be revived with all stakeholders as members. Conduct regular meetings and enhance each others work with with technical and ground support. Visual interpretation techniques and Change detection studies should be continuos and well supported and so is strict implementation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) to safeguard the mangroves.Develop campaigns on the impact of destruction of mangroves on the coastal environment.We can also promote activities that support sustainable growth of mangroves. 
Different departments and agencies such as Forests, Revenue, 
Urban development, Fisheries, MMRDA,CIDCO, MHADA should also play an active part 
Although the Forest department is the nodal agency at the state level for conservation and development
 of mangrove areasunder their guidance we all NGOs and communities and experts and stakeholders 
must unite to take this mangrove mission forward.

 The government declared mangroves as "reserved forests",but much settlement of rights of people who
 live off the mangrove land is balanceSo much is yet to be done.
Such a shame that even flamingo's prime birds of the mangrove areas are hunted down for meat just few months 
ago as reports have come in,so if the mangrove birds are not spared ,think of what will happen to the mangrove zones. 
Of course encroaches are our biggest challenge today.

We do have independent campaigners working for the conservation of mangroves and in community-based 
forest governance,todays meet is a call out to unite under one mangrove umbrella and concretize plans to
 meet every month or quarterly to take this mangrove mission head one. 
The meeting dated July 30th 2014 held jointly by the Forest department of Maharashtra 
and NGO Young Environmentalists Programme trust had the environmentalists of Mumbai and Mangrove
 experts unite to share information, case studies and also join hands with the hard working
 officials of the forest department to fight for the protection and rejuvenation of Mangroves in Maharashtra.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Powai Lake walk in the rain! Elsie Gabriel

Powai Lake walk in the rain! 

Powai lake in Mumbai.

My daily evening walks drew me to the Powai lake once again today. My weekly haunt. I took a quick call to visit the periphery of the lake borders and extended my footsteps towards where the waterfall beckoned. With each step closer to the Ambedkar Garden, I could hear gushing sounds of water, the sound of rain going on an overdrive flow. The sound of nature. The healing sound of blessings from heaven. Rain does do something to you. Rain not only drenches you, it controls you, takes over you and when you give in to a beautiful walk in the rain, specially without an umbrella or a care in the world, you know that it is Nature, nature becoming one with you. Rain involves you, it revives you, it wakes you up and most of all quenches your thirst for nature in all its being.  
Is this Powai ,is this Powai!!Natures offering to Powai.Pic Elsie Gabriel

I would like to share with you that it is said that the Powai lake was built by the British, in the year 1799 A.D.  Powai is situated in the North East of Mumbai and is gifted with the Powai lake. The Powai dam and reservoir made in 1889,is located at the Dr.Ambedkar Garden, popularly known as the BMC Powai Garden. Having conducted over 200 nature walks in the garden I know it like the back of my hand, but every time I step into its labyrinths I am offered new findings.
Come take a nature walk with me in Powai.

Old nature trail paths give way to new....

The garden is maintained by BMC and is under 'S' ward, although the Powai Lake comes under the Hydraulic department of the North East zone and under the care of the Additional Municipal Commissioner of Projects. I have spent hours fishing here and exploring the jungles much before it got its present manicured lawns and benches.

The Powai lake ecosystem is teeming with life and it cannot be neglected! Investigating the physical, chemical and biological relationships that take place in and around the Powai Lake is important because they are tied to the environment surrounding them; investigation of the floodplains, drainage basins and the atmosphere is vital. Every week I study the eutrophication of this water body. Eutrophication is a natural process that has caused this lake to age. However, human-caused, accelerated eutrophication has occurred more rapidly, and caused problems in the affected water body. Urban and industrial runoff also contribute to eutrophication but here in Powai we have garbage, silt, mountain mud, storm water drains over flowing, specially during the heavy rains. You have to walk in the rain and literally watch this for your self, right before your eyes.
Rich nutrient input stimulates growth of duck weed, water hyacinths, algae which change the lake as their populations increase. This is particularly the case when they undergo population explosions, basically as the chemicals like phosphates and nitrates..example-fertilizers make the lake more productive. That is why you see more green in the lake than you see water.
All pics copyright elsiegabriel

When the carpet of thick green stops sun light penetrating into the water, this decreases the productivity of plants living in the deeper waters. The water becomes depleted in oxygen. When the abundant algae die and decompose, much oxygen is consumed by those decomposers.  Lowered oxygen results in the death of fish that need high levels of dissolved oxygen .All this happens below deep beneath the lake that you pass by everyday in your bus or car.
The powia lake tries to fight it off as much as it can but starts to stagnate each year when the contractor is laid off. There is an organic relationship between the lakes and river systems. For the fifteens years that I have lived in Powai I believe there is a bond between the hills and the lake, and watching the space between them tighten pains me.

Old Powai Garden nature trails pic Elsie Gabriel

There are many bird species inside the Powai Lake ,some of them are Common & White  throated Kingfishers, Herons, small blue Kingfishers, both Phesant tailed and Bronze winged Jacanas . Around 30 odd bird species visit the lake during  December to May. The frequently seen birds in this period are Black winged stilts, Jacanas, coots, spot billed ducks, little cormorant,  little grebe, glossy ibis, white ibis, whiskered terns,  yellow wagtail, pied mayna, osprey and many more. Oriental Magpie Robins, Coppersmith Barbets and Parakeets, Bulbuls, Common Tailorbirds are among others. There species of fish like the Rahu,Katla,Catfish and Mrigal as well various species of snails, crocodiles and turtles too all part of the habitat! Duck weed, water lilies and water hyacinths are some plants of the lake. Conservation has to be stressed upon where ultimately there will exist a balance between development and Nature! Powai lake and it’s habitat should be treasured ,where in a city filled with concrete jungles can one find a lake and rich bio-diversity?
Come visit the Powai lake in all its glory during the monsoons. Take back a connection with nature which will stay with you till eternity…..

Give credit where it is due..good job BMC-Wet and Dry bins..use them wisely...found these outside the garden....