Sewri Mangrove Park
The Sewri Mangrove Park was declared a protected area by the Bombay Port Trust on January 15 1996. This park consists of 15 acres of mangroves in the mudflats between Sewri and Trombay. It can be reached from Sewri station on the Harbour line of the Mumbai suburban railway network. Get out on the east, cross the highway and commence walking due east. Follow the road as it turns right, and proceed to Sewri jetty. The walk takes about 15 minutes. Taxis will take you to the jetty, but it is hard to find one back.
In 1995, the BPT had undertaken to protect this area from any new construction or dredging activity. It had also declared an intention to influence the chemical industries along the coastline to check air and water pollution by reinforcing effluent control measures. The Trust further planned to protect the park from residents of nearby areas who cut down the trees for fuel, as well as from unscrupulous developers who remove sand from the area, thereby weakening the grip of anchor roots. In all this, the BPT was more successful than people had expected. However, more than a decade later, in 2007, this wetland habitat is in danger of being wiped out by the planned Mumbai-Nava Sheva road link.
Mangroves are essential to the ecology of the coast and the island. They provide fertile ground for fish to feed and breed in and nurture a large variety of birds. Seven species of mangroves have been identified in this area. The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) will help the BPT to replant barren areas inside the reserve. This project is expected to cost about Rs. 500,000. In addition, biodiversity studies will be carried out using satellite imagery in addition to older techniques like forest inventory.
Similiar efforts have been made to replant mangroves in Vikhroli-Ghatkopar in the early 90's. This was done by BNHS and the Soonabai Phirojsha Godrej Foundation. The BMC also has plans for replanting mangroves in the Thane creek region.
A very large number of birds either live in, or visit these swamps. In 1994 Flamingoes returned to mudflats after forty years. In a few hours of a winter afternoon one can expect to see many species. Recently I was with a group which arrived when the tide was at its lowest, and waited for a couple of hours for it to come in. The flamingos were too far away to be seen without binoculars, but we had good sightings of many other birds. There were numerous barn swallows flitting over the shallow water, their backs a smoky blue tapering to ash. The exposed mud at low tide was covered with flocks of little stints and sandpipers. Gulls (both black-headed and brown-headed) soared over the distant water. One made a spectacular dive into a tide pool near the shore to catch a fish. Terns, with their distinctive angled wings flew with the gulls. Two black-headed Ibis flew past us to forage somewhere out of sight.
Little egrets, some still with their breeding plumage, tiptoed delicately through the water, coming to a frozen halt every now and then, preparatory to jabbing at a prey below the water with their beaks. Ponds herons and reef herons stepped from mud to tide pool and back. Away at the distant tide line we saw foraging Godwits, red shanks and green shanks. A Kingfisher with its spectacular plumage came to rest for a while at the tip of a tall pole sunk into the mud near us. As the tide lapped its way in, the large egrets, sandpipers and Godwits came closer to us. The black-tailed Godwit is easily identified by its long beak, and the white wing feathers with a black edging which can be seen when it is in flight. They were still pecking away at the mud when we left.