Mangroves

Around Mumbai’s bio-diverse mangrove forests and its indigenous communities that live in it, nurture and preserve it and earn their livelihood through it. The film aims to tell the story of indigenous people who saw their green, rich biodiverse wetlands they called home to be replaced with a shiny, concrete exhaust-fuming city with a GDP of US$61 billion. The purpose of this film is to kickstart an urban awareness campaign surrounding the mangroves through the voices of Mumbai’s indigenous people – Kolis, Aagris, Bhandaris and Tambolis and how “development and displacement” are reclaiming the ocean water and mangroves wetland.

People know Mumbai as the financial capital of our country, the city of dreams, the city of freedom to so many migrant workers and “employees”. But not many know of Mumbai as a biodiversity hotspot, thanks to its abundant mangrove forests. Again, to most people, mangroves are a spot they visit annually to capture the pink wave of flamingos and collect likes on social media, to others it is simply a dirty, muddy swamp, full of mosquito’s disease-ridden place, to some an opportunity waiting to be grabbed and re-developed into shiny concrete jungles.

Environmentalists define mangroves as a type of coastal wetlands with small trees that grow in saline water (the only kind in the world) and offer a unique ecosystem for wild animals, birds, reptiles and aquatic fauna.  But it is actually more than that, for Mumbai’s indigenous communities it is a habitat, their livelihood, their common resource, everything.

I have been studying Mumbai’s mangroves and engaging with the local communities that nurture and depend on them for over 10 months now. Based on what I have learned, I wish to kickstart a civic awareness campaign, through the medium of this film, to enlighten the urban audience, who are often unaware that their beloved Mumbai was in fact once a hotspot of living biodiversity.

Mumbai become overcrowded and government decided to plan the new city. Charles Correa one of the planners of Navi Mumbai once had said that, “Market forces do not make a city, they destroy them. It is as true of Mumbai as it is for Navi Mumbai”. Charles Correa is a chief architect of City Industrial and Development Corporation of Maharashtra (CIDCO). The brand CIDCO then make the difference in city planning. Existing proposal has examined the conflict of 344 kms of Navi Mumbai which includes the villages of Thane and Raigad district which also shares the 50 kms of geography which is distributed in three municipal councils Panvel, Uran and Thane. 

And then the Maha Mumbai Special Economic Zone (MMSEZ) is proposed to be setup in Navi Mumbai area, as a one of the international business centers. I have been to Maha Mumbai several time which is one of the Special Economic Zone which have acquired 10,000 hectares of land. In last ten years government have been looted and fooled the inhabitants for the land. The Navi Mumbai Airport  which is in Phase I have acquired 2126 hectares of land. The Nhava Sheva-Sewri (one of the largest) bridge is built upon for the reason of development only.

It is the SEZ which infrastructurally showing the facilities by looting the inhabitants and government. Real estate is bloomed, tycoons and business giants luring the economic opportunity and it’s just show off that how Maha Mumbai has all the infrastructure facilities. When I visited the area is seen in a barren condition (see the article crash landing – The Navi Mumbai Airport).

Sea, railway, air, and road are the promises given by the government and others but nobody had talked about carefully biodiversity and savior mangroves and wetlands. The trans-shipment of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) of Uran and Yogayatan port in Vashi are been built already and it all saying that it will be connected to the rest of the country but what about the immigrants, biodiversity, mangroves, visitor flamingoes, inhabitants, and livelihood?

Recent Mumbai coastal road project work leaves fisherfolk communities in unmapped waters. Despite of two Covid-related lockdowns in the last one and half year, work on the city’s Coastal Road has continued at an instant pace. At least 217 acres of land has so far been reclaimed from the Arabian Sea for the project and many of the mangroves have been cut down, with an additional 50-odd acres yet to be created. This is recent phenomenon. In the film, I am trying to describe how and why reclamation on land and ocean been done time to time in the name of development.

The Brihanmumbai Municipality Corporation (BMC) is reclaiming 274 acres (111 hectares) of land from the sea and mangroves while the road only needs 49 acres (20 hectares) Who would trust the BMC that this extra reclaimed land won’t be commercially exploited.

Land reclamation along the ocean and mangroves has already begun and its historical impact on the livelihoods of fisherfolk, with women and small fishermen’s incomes being the first to be hit, and it’s clear. For decades, these groups within the broader fishing community have conducted their trade almost entirely along the rocky, muddy and sandy shore along with the mangrove’s patches.

They largely include the Kolis, Agari, Bhandari and Tamboli communities but also consist communities who practice artisanal fishing. Boat owners, labourers, migrant workers, daily-wage or subsistence fishers, net-menders, oyster pickers and other vocations tied to the artisanal fishing trade have all been affected by the loss of these coastal commons.

Followings are the links of the song that we repurposed already available footage and half of the footage we shot.

  1. To develop the stories related to inhabitants, we are connecting them through music as one of the identical factors to understand the complexities. The first song that we created as a tribute. Slowly Mumbai will get into its normal life. Same as mangroves; the local train is also one of the important factors for Mumbai. Without a local train, Mumbai was not breathing. Once the government declares that the locals will start soon; people started pouring their emotions. Some got really happy, some left their sadness. Some have suspired their depression when they heard the news.

2. Nhivata, which also called Mud-skipper is one of the fish, its delicacy and existence is in danger due to the many human made reasons. Much of the footage are resourced from many you tube channels and reused, for repurposing for mangroves project in the mind. No intention of monetizing.

3. Penned by the legendary balladeer late Vithal Umap. Depicting how important is fish for the inhabitants life.

4. Penned by the legendary balladeer late Vithal Umap, this song celebrates the lives of the fisherfolk who have made their homes by the sea.

5. Mangroves, Mountains and beauty of Mumbai