For long, the Mahul-Sewri mudflats have been known as the perfect place to spot flamingoes. But if you look beyond the pink-winged birds, you may chance upon other globally threatened bird species too.
This feeding ground for birds has given the wetland an entry on the list of 135 potential Ramsar sites in India, according to a study conducted by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
“Wetlands not only support huge bird populations, but also serve as the vital source of drinking water, irrigation and groundwater recharge,” said Asad Rahmani, BNHS director. “Water pollution, dumping of waste and debris, reclamation and poaching are some of the major threats to wetlands and birds in India.”
Identification as a potential Ramsar site accords international importance to the wetlands under the Ramsar Convention of 1971, under whose banner February 2 is observed as World Wetlands Day.
An international panel finally designates areas that meet the criteria as Ramsar site, which have to be protected by the local governments. The criteria for a Ramsar site is that the wetland must have bird species that are globally threatened, found in a congregation, restricted to a region (for instance, India) or restricted to an area (for instance, the western ghats).
At present, India has 25 wetland areas recognised as Ramsar sites. Apart from Mahul-Sewri mudflats in Mumbai, the Thane creek has also been selected as a potential site.
The other sites from Maharashtra on the list are Vengurla Rocks in Sindhudurg district, Jaikwadi Sanctuary at Aurangabad, Nandur Madhmeshwar Sanctuary at Nashik and the Ujani dam in Pune.
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), in collaboration with the state government, will prepare detailed reports to protect and conserve wetlands in Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad and Nashik. “Wetlands are vulnerable and need to be protected,” said Dr Anjali Parasnis, head, western region, TERI. “One needs to understand that wetlands act as buffer zones that, in turn, protect the main land.”