Practices & Solutions

Conservation of Mangroves and its Biodiversity by Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Company Ltd, Maharashtra

Background

Mangroves are one of the most productive and biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet, that support both terrestrial as well as marine biodiversity. They have been estimated to provide approximately USD 1.6 billion per year in ecosystem services worldwide.[1]  Mumbai, the capital city of Maharashtra in the western peninsular region of India, occupies the Western Ghats and Coastal biogeographic regions of the country and hosts 15 of the 35 species of true mangroves found in India, spread across the West bank of the Thane creek in it’s north-eastern suburb, Vikhroli. These mangroves provide an array of ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, wastewater treatment by breaking complex pollutants, sustenance to the local Koli tribe, trapping silt to maintain the integrity of the suburb’s shoreline and providing a habitat to rare and endangered species. The Mangrove Society of India (MSI) has included the Vikhroli wetlands among 12 unique mangrove forests in the country.


Need for the Initiative

According to the Government of India (1987), the country lost 40 percent of its mangrove area in the last century[2]. The Indian state of Maharashtra, recorded a loss of 206 sq.km of mangroves cover between the years 1987 and 1997, with its capital city, Mumbai recording a loss of 39.32 percent of its mangrove cover, during 1990 to 2001 (Vijay et al, 2005). This was largely attributed to reclamation and fragmentation for human settlements, construction activities, encroachment, and discharge of domestic sewage and industrial effluents along the coastlines.


Conservation Initiatives and Impacts

The Godrej & Boyce Mfg Co Ltd (G&B), is one of the largest private industrial corporations in India. In the 1940s, Godrej acquired land comprising vast luxuriant mangroves in Vikhroli, for setting up its industrial process and took several initiatives for the conservation of mangroves right from the start. The 1,698 hectare Godrej Industrial Garden Township comprises approximately 47 hectares of open forest and 1,228 hectares of mangrove forest, together constituting 75 per cent of the Township area. The Godrej Mangroves ecosystem is the first privately managed mangrove belt in India. It is supported by the Soonabai Pirojsha Godrej (SPG) Foundation, a trust registered[3] in 1985. The G&B has constituted the 'Wetland Management Services', under the Soonabai Pirojsha Godrej Marine Ecology Centre (SPGMEC), an offshoot of the SPG Foundation, for implementation of conservation initiatives within the Godrej Industrial Garden Township. It has adopted ISO 14001 standards for Environment Management System and the certification ensures time-bound, measurable performance indicators and targets for conservation. These targets are linked to the Performance Development Management (PDM) system- a method deployed by the organisation to periodically evaluate the performance of the team, and the progress is documented in the nPulse software (project progress tracking software) and further activities are planned accordingly.

Since its establishment in Vikhroli, the G&B has implemented several conservation initiatives. Plantation of true mangrove and associate species across 0.32 sq.km has been carried out, facilitating in-situ conservation of 15 mangrove species. Mangrove nursery and several theme gardens such as butterfly, medicinal and palm gardens that conserve a vast gene pool have been established, with over 100 diverse species in each garden. Regular maintenance of nature trails along with patrolling is carried out to prevent encroachments and logging. Several outdoor and indoor awareness campaigns have been initiated, such as frequent nature walks, film screenings, and release of publications. Every year around 7,000-10,000 citizens learn about the importance of mangroves through these awareness programs. Godrej mangrove visit has been included as a core curricular activity by several academic institutions. To enhance Godrej’s mangrove conservation outreach, Asia’s first ‘Mangrove App’ was launched to identify true mangrove and mangrove associate species of Maharashtra.

As a result of the conservation initiatives, the Mangrove ecosystem now shelters diverse wildlife comprising 206 bird species, 82 butterfly species, 31 reptile species, 4 mammal species, 22 fish species, 14 crab species, 7 prawn species, 79 spider species and more than 75 insect species. Godrej has documented several species of avifauna which are ‘vulnerable’ as per the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in its mangroves, such as Eurasian eagle, Steppe eagle and Tawny eagle. Improved detritus food-chain and habitat for aquatic life has resulted in an enhanced volume of catch (fish, prawns, crabs and lobsters) for the local fisher folk. A research assessment revealed that the mangroves had sequestered approximately 960,000 metric tonnes of carbon equivalent of carbon dioxide in its biomass and sediments till August 2019. In the last decade, Godrej has facilitated 28 research projects in partnership with academic and research institutes to generate a better understanding of mangrove ecosystems. Thus, through its conservation initiatives, Godrej has tried to maintain the delicate balance between industrial activities and nature conservation.


Recognition in India Biodiversity Awards

Godrej & Boyce Mfg Co Ltd (G&B) received special mention in the India Biodiversity Awards under the category ‘Conservation of Species in Wild’ in 2018.

Laxmikant Deshpande

Tel. +91 9167344890

Email: amartd@godrej.com

×