As bird numbers rise in MMR wetlands, greens concerned over eco-destruction during coronavirus lockdown | Navi Mumbai News

NAVI MUMBAI: Even as there has been a reported increase in the numbers of wetland birds like flamingos in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai regions, the green activists are highly concerned about the destruction of coastal mangroves in areas like Uran and Kharghar.
On the occasion of Earth Day, several NGOs and environmentalists held online forums on Wednesday while also urging the state authorities to step up the vigil to protect the wetlands.
“We have got reports from local residents how rubber tyres are being burnt inside the green mangroves belt between Kharghar and Mansarovar, in order to illegally destroy the wetlands and grab the land. The culprits are taking advantage of the lockdown to do this eco-destruction. This is also happening in parts of Uran,” said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation.
Kumar further added: “The reduction of certain wetlands has led to more birds shifting to other coastal areas of Navi Mumbai and Mumbai, thereby leading to increased birds sightings. In Earth Day bugle, a group of environmentalists have cautioned the government and urban planners against the disastrous effects of playing with the nature and called for stepping up citizen vigil to protect mangroves, wetlands and hills in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).”
Environmentalist D Stalin, who is also member of the high court-appointed Mangroves Protection Committee, commented: “There have been reports about a 25% increase in the number of flamingos along the Sewree coast and also Navi Mumbai. However, due to large-scale destruction of wetlands in other parts like Mira-Bhayendar, Uran and Kharghar, I too feel that many coastal birds are now concentrated in the surviving wetlands. There is still some time for the government to save the environment.”
The Navi Mumbai-based environmentalists have also once again reminded the state authorities about the promised Flamingo Sanctuary on the Seawoods site, where the earlier plan was to build an Integrated Golf Course Project. The golf course plan has already faced severe criticism from nature lovers who have also shot photos and videos of hundreds of wetland birds present on this very site during the lockdown.
Kumar also expressed the apprehension that the various project proponents and their contractors could find the on-going lockdown period and the absence of official surveillance as an opportunity to continue with their destruction of nature. In this context, he recalled the impact on biodiversity due to the reckless burial of wetlands and blocking of free flow of tidal waters in eco-sensitive Uran region across Mumbai harbour.
The saline water has begun enter paddy fields and flood low-lying villages. Local fishing community too lost their fishing zones to infrastructure projects. This is the direct impact of the absence of environment surveillance during the last Lok Sabha poll when the officials were away on poll duty, Kumar pointed out.
Now, with the burial of wetlands, migratory birds like flamingos have gone in search of alternative destination at Talawe in Navi Mumbai, said Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan.
Pawar lamented that despite the directives from the high court appointed mangrove committee, tidal water flow to the area is being restricted with Panje wetland going dry off and on. Water has to be constant for the bird food such as algae to grow and this is being cruelly denied to flamingos, he said.
While the large number of pink birds flocking Talawe is a feast to the eyes of the bird watchers, the flamingos’ absence at Panje and other places spells doom for the bio-diversity of eco-sensitive Uran, Pawar said.
The environmentalists have already cautioned the government against the destruction of natural wetlands in Uran as birds which used to visit the region would be compelled to find another destination and that will be detrimental to aircraft movement at the upcoming Navi Mumbai International Airport.
Despite the Bombay high court-appointed wetlands committee orders to restore the wetlands at Pagote and Bhendkhal in Uran, action has not been taken by authorities on the pretext that the areas have been handed over to a private conglomerate long ago. The FIR filed against NMSEZ has also just remained on paper, Kumar said.
NatConnect Foundation and Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan have also called for careful examination of the MMRDA plans to expand the MMR and not to repeat the past mistakes of rapid urbanisation of Kalyan-Dombivili and Navi Mumbai. The disappearance of mudflats, scrapping of river regulatory zone, apart from destruction of mangroves and wetlands have already led to massive floods during the last monsoon, the green groups pointed out.

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