Every January, the creeks in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai are dotted with flamingos and other migratory birds, making these areas their home for almost half a year.
To ensure these birds keep making their annual trips, a local group has been educating people in Navi Mumbai about the need to protect them and preserve the marshy lands. The 50-odd members of Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishthan (SEP), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), originally representing people from the fishing community, patrol various areas Navi Mumbai to protect the flamingos’ natural habitat.
“People from the villages and fisher folk community hunt flamingos and other migratory birds and sell their meat in Mulund and Thane,” said Nandkumar Pawar, director, SEP.
The NGO regularly organises training programmes for the fishing communities and others to spread awareness about the birds. They are also told about the importance of conserving mangroves. “After we saw how brutally these birds were killed, we decided to take a stand and make people realise the importance of saving these birds,” said Ramesh Mhatre, a member.
According to the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), the number flamingos migrating to Mumbai has increased. Deepak Apte, chief operating officer, BNHS, said, “When they first started migrating to Mumbai two decades ago, only around 4,000-5,000 flamingos could be spotted. Today, the numbers have gone up to 30,000 to 40,000.”
He added that most number of flamingos flock marshy areas around Sewri, followed by the Thane creek. These sites are notified among the important bird areas (IBA) worldwide.
“The BNHS has started a five-year project in 2014 to study the species carefully, under the understand flamingo movement,” said Apte.
Chief conservator of forests of the mangrove cell N Vasudevan said, “Locals groups such as SEP are doing good work. There is hope for migratory birds in and around the city. The mangrove cell would like to associate with them and support their endeavour.”