Maharashtra Seeks Ramsar Certification for Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary | Bombay News

Mumbai More than three years after the state government finally declared 16.9 square kilometers of Thane Creek as a protected area under the Wildlife Protection Act (1972), and more than a year after the forest department filed a 10-year management plan for the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS), a crucial step in ensuring the safety of the wetland, has hit a major hurdle in protecting the areas wet satellites of Navi Mumbai and Uran.

According to the TCFS management plan, there are six “critical satellite wetlands” which have been identified by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and which have been proposed to be declared as conservation reserves or community reserves to alleviate pressures development including Bhandup (11 ha) in Mumbai, Panje (124 ha), Belpada (30 ha), Bhendkhal (8 ha) in Uran, Training Ship Chanakya (13 ha) and NRI Complex (19 ha) in Navi Mumbai . These serve as resting places for flamingos and other wading birds, which fly over their feeding grounds in the cove at high tide. “Birds residing in TCFS are also known to use nearby satellite wetlands for foraging,” the document says.

An action plan for these areas, as included in Chapter 11 of the TCFS Management Plan, includes further study to “understand the links between TCFS and its satellite wetlands within 50 km” and ” to formulate the policy necessary for the conservation of the identified lands. swamps”. In July 2020, just a month after filing the above plan, the Forestry Department wrote to CIDCO and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) – who own the land on which this network of areas sits. Wetlands – seeking their input on declaring these six water bodies as conservation reserves.

CIDCO and JNPT have since rejected this proposal. In a response to the Forest Department, CIDCO wrote that these sites “are tracts of developable land” that “do not qualify to be declared wetlands.” CIDCO is also currently fighting a Bombay High Court (HC) order preventing it from developing the TSC-NRI wetland into an 80-hectare golf course and residential complex. Both areas – TSC-NRI to the north and the Uran Wetlands to the south – are under pressure from development activities, as HT has previously reported. Since early January, residents of Navi Mumbai have been reporting the use of heavy machinery including earth-moving machinery, drills, dumpers and cranes in pockets D and E, without any authorization from NMMC and in clear violation of regulations. CRZ / CRZ notification 2011, etc.

“Before the TCFS management plan can be fully implemented, these sites will be gone. It therefore seems premature to celebrate the recent approval by the Chief Minister of a proposal to obtain Ramsar certification for the TCFS. Water bodies are being reclaimed right under our noses,” said BN Kumar, an ecologist based in Navi Mumbai. On February 16, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray approved a proposal by the State Forestry Department‘s Mangrove Cell to seek Ramsar certification for the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary. A Ramsar site is a wetland designated as being of international importance – particularly for waterfowl – under an intergovernmental environmental treaty known as the Ramsar Convention.

In fact, Kumar said, conservationists and experts have been waiting much longer for the state government to protect these satellite wetlands. In December 2015, four months after the publication of the TCFS notification statement, the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) approved the declaration of over 1,600 acres of wetlands in the districts of Mumbai, Raigad and Thane as bird sanctuaries, with the express intention of protecting flamingos. and other migratory shorebirds. These included the Panje-Funde and TSC-NRI wetlands, as well as Sewri-Mahul on the city’s eastern waterfront. The proposal has yet to see the light of day, although the Mumbai-Trans Harbor Link project – which led to the creation of the TCFS – has been progressing at a rapid pace.

Now, however, conservationists believe a recent National Green Tribunal (NGT) order could set a strong precedent for the protection of remaining wetlands. On February 22, the Western Zone Bench of the Tribunal led by its Chairman, Adarsh ​​Kumar Goel, called for the protection of the Panje Wetland, noting that it “in fact exists, even though it is not notified”. “It is necessary to ensure that there is no encroachment or damage to the wetland,” the NGT noted, reiterating the Supreme Court’s position that the principles of the Wetland Rules are applicable not only to notified wetlands, but to all wetlands inventoried in the National Atlas of Wetlands.

“This is the first time there has been such a clear order from a court to protect these satellite wetlands, even if they are not notified. The spirit of this order should be applied to other land use plans. water in Belpada, Bhendkal and TSC-NRI in Navi Mumbai, which also actually exists.On February 22, the NGT ruled that a joint committee of candidates from the National Wetlands Committee, National Wetlands Authority , Maharashtra, MCZMA and District Collector Raigad was to take necessary measures for the protection, conservation and management of Panje Wetland Similar efforts are needed for other wetlands to protect the entire ecological network,” said Nandakumar Pawar, an Uran-based activist whose petition to the NGT led to his recent ordinance on Panje.

Virendra Tiwari, the Principal Additional Chief Conservator of Forests (Mangrove Cell), said: “We have written to the Bombay Natural History Society asking them to comment on the response given to us by CIDCO and JNPT, and we await their response.

Adarsh ​​Reddy, DFO, TCFS said: “This particular mandate to declare satellite wetlands as conservation reserves has been delayed, but further action is being taken. We have a long-term monitoring study of the flamingos underway which will include radio tagging of the birds, and ecotourism and education exercises are also taking place regularly. We will file a PIL with the Bombay High Court to seek permission to manage the mangroves, which is crucial for habitat preservation.

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