Very soon, civic officials in Mumbai will embark on a delicate mission that could spell the difference between life and death for some of the city’s most fragile assets — coral colonies at Worli and Haji Ali.
On Thursday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation received the green signal from the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Nagpur, for translocating the corals for the Rs 12,700-crore Mumbai Coastal Road Project.
The BMC is executing the 10.58-km project from Princess Street Flyover on Marine Drive to Worli, where it will connect to the Bandra-Worli Sealink. And officials are confident that with the help of experts from the National Institute of Oceanography, the translocation can be completed in two days in November, since the presence of corals at both sites is “miniscule”.
“While granting NOC for translocation, the Wildlife Board told us to follow all guidelines. They have told us to complete the translocation by December but we will finish before that. We will need two days of low tide for moving these corals to a new site,” said a senior civic official.
The colonies at Haji Ali will be translocated to Marine Lines, and those at Worli at some distance away from the construction site. But the proposed move has also led to apprehension.
EXPLAINED | How corals off Mumbai’s coast will be moved
“I hope the BMC is able to translocate the colonies of reef-building False Pillow corals on the Haji Ali shore. These colonies were almost lost to land reclamation last month,” said Shaunak Modi, a marine researcher who has documented corals along Mumbai’s shoreline.
Corals are marine invertebrates that attach themselves to rocky inter-tidal regions and sustain a variety of marine life. The reef-building corals are covered under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 for endangered species.
The oceanography institute, which was tasked with tracking marine biodiversity along the project area, had identified six coral species at Worli and Haji Ali — 18 colonies spread across 0.251 sqm in Worli and over 0.11 sqm at Haji Ali. The species documented are hard corals that are visible during low tide.
Marine biologists had opposed the reclamation, warning that the move would destroy the corals. But the BMC initially failed to acknowledge the coral presence and denied that they would need wildlife permission for the project. Late last year, the Bombay High Court ordered officials to obtain clearance as the project would affect species covered under the Wildlife Protection Act.
Finally, on September 3, the civic body applied for clearance and submitted a proposal to the Mangrove Cell of the Maharashtra Forest Department to translocate the colonies. On October 12, following primary inspection, the Mangrove Cell forwarded the application to the PCCF (Wildlife).
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