Dead turtle toll rises to five in Railadevi lake
Five dead softshell turtles and two red ear slider turtles were recovered from the Railadevi lake in Thane’s Wagle Estate in last two days, after animal activists and Thane forest department received information about turtles found dead in the lake. which is undergoing a major facelift
Five dead softshell turtles and two red ear slider turtles were recovered from the Railadevi lake in Thane’s Wagle Estate in last two days, after animal activists and Thane forest department received information about turtles found dead in the lake. which is undergoing a major facelift.
On Thursday, three more dead and one alive turtle were recovered from the lake. Meanwhile the forest department has written to the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) asking an explanation and whether necessary measures were undertaken to protect the aquatic life in the lake.
“We need an explanation on what kind of work is being carried out in the lake - whether the civic body has taken the necessary measures to ensure the turtles are safe. We are checking daily for more turtles. Our team is deployed there. As of now, the work of draining the lake has been stopped,” said Dinesh Desle, Range forest officer, Thane.
Followed by the deaths of the turtles, Muse Foundation, an NGO from Thane, has also written to the Maharashtra forest department outlining the threat to the lake, highlighting the killing and habitat destruction of soft-shell turtles, and other exotic tortoises and fish by Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, and the TMC.
“These agencies have been carrying out the Railadevi Lake Beautification project. The project is being executed without any environmental or forest clearances. Riparian zone of the lake is being destroyed: MMRDA and TMC have dumped construction debris to reclaim portions of the lake. Thereafter, the slope of the lake has been covered by gabion structures, which most probably will be concretised. These slopes are the nesting habitat of the turtles and other aquatic life of Railadevi Lake. Both agencies, through their contractor, have destroyed these habitats,” said Nishant Bangera, founder of the foundation.
“Heavy vehicles including JCBs have entered inside the lake and destroyed the habitat of turtles and other aquatic life. The de-siltation process has led to killing of soft-shell turtles, exotic tortoises, fishes and more. 99% of the water has been drained out, thus virtually wiping off the entire habitat of these aquatic life,” he added.
Further it mentioned, the ongoing beautification project of MMRDA is violating the Wildlife and Biodiversity Act by undertaking the execution without proper ecological study of the place. “The lake is a feeding ground for many birds including Egrets and Herons. Currently the lake has completely been drained off, leaving no room for algae or fish, thus taking away a vital source of food for them,” he added.
The foundation has demanded a criminal FIR against the officials who permitted the water draining and desiltation process.
TMC commissioner Abhijit Bangar did not respond to the calls.
TMC chief environment officer Manisha Pradhan said, “We had already built a pond for the fish and the turtles on the riverside and it has many fish and turtles in it. There are fishermen who come to the lake to catch fish and in that way, turtles are also caught in the net. We have managed to rescue two turtles alive with the help of forest department. Further we are looking into the measures to save the fish too. Meanwhile, the forest department is investigating the cause of death.”