A mangrove cover of 66 square km cushions the coastline of Mumbai and acts as a natural barrier against sea level rise and coastal flooding, apart from providing numerous other ecosystem services.The mangroves are under continuous threat from the consequences of rapid urbanisation and population surge.Seema Adgaonkar, who until recently was one of the four Range Forest Officers at the Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Unit, has been guarding the city’s vital coastal ecosystem. Fifty-six-year-old Seema Adgaonkar glides through swampy mangroves in ankle-deep muck. The fragrance of Avicennia marina (the grey mangrove), the most widely-spread mangrove species in Mumbai, makes the trail pleasant despite the 36 degree Celsius hot and humid conditions. Adgaonkar relishes the scent as she walks in a single file with a forest guard and two helpers, towards one of the mangrove nurseries they set up on the city’s coastline. She gives the team instructions on where to plant saplings along the course and shares tips to identify some of the species with their regional and scientific names. “You’ve to know everything that is associated with your job to do it well,” said Adgaonkar, about her erstwhile role as a Range Forest Officer (RFO), which included mangrove plantation and guarding the ecosystem that borders Mumbai. In some parts of the city’s tangled mangroves, she and her team members carry ropes and hooks to pull themselves to safety. They have also learned from crab catchers the technique of using a wooden plank to wade through the dark muck in mangroves and mudflats. Adgaonkar can navigate boats, big and small, through the creeks and estuaries of the coastal city. Until recently, she was one of the four range forest officers at the Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Unit (MMCU), a 36-member body, solely dedicated to protecting the city’s mangrove forests. With a recent promotion, Adgaonkar is on to using her skills and experience to train the next generation of guardians of Maharashtra’s forests. The MMCU falls under the Maharashtra forest department’s Mangrove Cell, the only unit in India that specialises in mangrove protection and conservation. The cell was established in 2012 following a 2005 Bombay High Court order to declare all mangroves under government land as protected forests.