The Marine Life of Mumbai
Mumbai’s coasts have long been regarded as barren and devoid of life, but this idea has changed over the past few years. Various citizen-led movements have sprung up across the city that aim to highlight Mumbai’s thriving coasts and marine life, so as to mobilize interest to preserve and protect them. The Marine Life of Mumbai by Coastal Conservation Foundation is one such initiative that has made strides in this regard, and our contributor, Tia Bhatnagar, highlights their work in this piece.
Sustainable improvement and the protection of the environment are interrelated. It is evident that our coasts are becoming the hub for commercial real estate expansion without consideration for the environment. Take the example of the Coastal Road project in Mumbai. During the first stage of this project, the BMC is recovering approximately 90 hectares of land from the Arabian sea whereas the requirement was merely 20. This project has translocated entire coral colonies. The question we need to ask ourselves is are we undertaking urban development at the cost of damaging the biodiversity of our environment?
To preserve the biodiversity of Mumbai, we need to understand the modern-day threats posed to it. Some dangers to the marine life of coastal Mumbai include infrastructure development such as the aforementioned Coastal road project. Another major cause is the increasing volume of sewage water and untreated water that is being released into the sea. This serves as a major threat to the habitat of many coastal species that are now ending up on the shores. The change brought about by economic growth is inevitable but it is imperative to find a balance between development and conservation of the environment. This can be done by making minimum alterations to the sensitive habitats of other species on our planet in the name of development, by taking steps to reduce our carbon footprints through long-term measures, and by using fewer plastic products that eventually end up contaminating our oceans and seas.
Spiral Meglongena with egg capsules found on the sandy shore
Once people discover the hidden beauty even in their urban cities, it will encourage the citizens to protect these treasures at all costs. There are a few NGOs and associations that build such awareness, and the one that stands out is the Marine Life of Mumbai. MLOM was founded by Pradip Patade, Abhishek Jamalabad – a marine biologist and researcher, and Siddharth Chakravarty – an academic researcher. Marine Life of Mumbai (MLOM) is one of the main initiatives launched by the Coastal Conservation Foundation. After speaking with Shaunak Modi, a key member of the MLOM, it is clear that their group is working diligently to spread the awareness and make citizens of Mumbai cognizant of their surroundings and then instill in them a sense of need to preserve the environment.
Telescope Shell found in the Mangroves
MLOM started and developed organically with a simple idea of making the coast of Mumbai more popular to the residents of Mumbai. This group led by volunteers arranges monthly shore walks with guides to the city’s marine life and shares photos, findings, and information on their Facebook page and website, freely accessible to the public. The objective of MLOM is to offer to the people a first-hand experience to see the diverse marine life of Mumbai. It is hoped that such personal trips might spark off interest among the general public to take some collective steps towards the conservation efforts. After all, unless people build a deep connection to a place, they will not step up to protect it. A visit to the MLOM website, their Facebook page, and their database on iNaturalist will make everyone fall in love with the coasts of Mumbai. MLOM wants to draw attention to the beauty of this ecosystem that surrounds us.
Eudendrium hydroid found on the rocky shore
MLOM is essentially an outreach project which aims to present the variety of marine life on Mumbai’s shores. This project makes us contemplate what we lose if the coastal conservation of Mumbai remains a second priority against urban development. In addition to encouraging the citizens to explore the shores of Mumbai, MLOM also collects data pertaining to different species they come across and upload this data on an open biodiversity archive website called iNaturalist. Under the citizen science initiative, MLOM collects information from the fishermen folk as they visit the open seas all-round the year and some very valuable data can be obtained from them.
Green Mussels found on the rocky shore
A lot of plastic and waste materials are thrown away carelessly at the beach shores. Clearly, organizations such as MLOM are attempting to create empathy for marine life so that citizens can extend their concerns to the civic authorities. Next time when you’re walking along the beach or the beautiful rocky shores of the city remember the marine inhabitants who are striving to survive in unsuitable conditions of pollution and extend empathy to these creatures by doing your part as a responsible citizen of the country.
Sea Anemone found on the sandy shore
Photo Credits: Marine Life of Mumbai Website Gallery