Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Mumbai's Mangroves Threatened By New International Airport

Mumbai’s mangroves, which are important marine ecosystems and provide vital protection against floods and coastal erosion for a city built on reclaimed land, are under threat from plans to build a new international airport.

Ninety percent of the site for the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport is wetland and 170 hectares are covered with dense mangroves. A third of the site falls within the Coastal Regulation Zone created in 1991, which banned development on mangroves and other ecologically sensitive areas.

In 2005, floods during the monsoon season brought Mumbai to a standstill and nearly 1,500 people died. The destruction of the mangroves and uncontrolled development have been seen as aggravating factors that caused the disaster.

The new airport is expected to handle 10 million passengers a year in 2012, rising to 20 million in 2020, in order to to cater for the limits of expansion of the existing Chattrapathi Shivaji International Airport at Sahar. More than 91 million travellers are expected to pass through Mumbai by 2031.

The Ecologist reports that the Maharashtra state government has refused to consider proposals by conservationists for alternative sites for the airport and that powerful business interests, who argue construction is essential for attracting foreign investment, also have a “vested interest in the land adjoining the proposed site”.

Rapid industrialisation, pollution, housing development and an increasing population has already resulted in the gradual destruction of mangrove ecosystems, with 40 percent lost over the last decade.

More from the Ecologist here and further information on Mumbai's mangroves here.

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