Thane Creek features as one of the two sites that the Bombay Natural History Society has recommended to the state government as potential Ramsar sites on February 1, a day before World Wetland Day.
Hatnur Dam in Jalgaon is the second recommendation that the body made.
Ramsar sites are wetlands considered to be of international importance. The Ramsar convention, an international body, forms the basis for identification of such wetlands. The international treaty came into effect in 1971 after identifying the first such wetland at the Ramsar city of Iran. The Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
In 2013, the state forest department had identified five prominent wetlands - Jaikwadi Bird Sanctuary (Aurangabad), Ujni Reservoir (Pune), Sewri Creek or Mahul-Sewri Mudflats (Mumbai), Nandur Madhmeshwar Bird Sanctuary (Nashik), and Lonar Lake Sanctuary (Buldhana) – as proposed Ramsar sites for the state government. The BNHS proposal adds an additional two sites to this list, taking the total to seven. However, Maharashtra does not have a Ramsar site yet.
“India is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention,” said Dr Deepak Apte, director, BNHS. “The declaration of these seven sites as Ramsar sites would help garner global recognition. It will also promote conservation of the wetlands as a habitat, in turn protecting the varied biodiversity they harbour, as well as ensure water security in the region,”
Apte added that the proposed sites easily qualify as they fulfil the nine criteria listed by the Ramsar convention. “The process takes time as a lot of documents need to be in place for each site and in the system, such proposals may not get its due priority all the time. So we have to work with the government to pursue them,” he said.
State government officials said that they had not received the proposal yet but will definitely consider it. “While there seems to be no issues with wetland areas of Thane creek to get international recognition, an artificially created area like Hatnur dam has been commissioned as a project for a specific purpose – either drinking water or irrigation. If the declaration puts a stop to such purposes, the proposal needs to be thoroughly considered,” said a senior official from the state environment department.
Proposed Ramsar sites
Recently declared as a flamingo sanctuary, Thane creek, an important bird area (IBA), hosts over 40,000 flamingos for nearly six months every year, including both greater and lesser flamingos. Additionally, many species of migratory birds are spotted here, including a large number of pied avocets, black-tailed godwits, common redshanks, stints and sand plovers.
Hatnur dam is known to host 20,000 to 32,000 birds during winter, including hundreds of threatened painted storks, black-headed ibis and other water birds.