Inlets to Panje wetland opened, Raigad collector tells NGT
Nearly eight months after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) first told the City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) to ensure that all tidal water inlets to its 289-hectare (ha) property in Uran are opened immediately to ensure flow of seawater to Panje coastal wetland
Nearly eight months after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) first told the City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) to ensure that all tidal water inlets to its 289-hectare (ha) property in Uran are opened immediately to ensure flow of seawater to Panje coastal wetland and its mangrove forests, the Raigad district collector informed the court on Monday that it has ensured Cidco’s compliance with these instructions.
Panje wetland, in Raigad district’s Uran taluka (which is known for harbouring flamingoes and other species of migratory wetland birds), has been significantly denuded over the decade due to reclamation, construction and hindrances to water flow. Last November, the Bombay high court (HC) had ruled that blocking the flow of tidal water to the area would be deemed a violation. In September 2018, Cidco had shut 76 sluice gates using a flood-control mechanism to close high-tide water ingress.
Some gates had also been damaged, which environmentalists said was starving the adjacent mangrove forests of water. In October 2019, following complaints submitted to the state mangrove cell and interventions by the wetland grievance redressal committee, these gates were opened by Cidco. However, five culverts, which form the main channel for the flow of water between Panje and the sea remained shut, prompting Navi Mumbai NGO Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan (SEAP) to file a petition in NGT.
SEAP founder Nandakumar Pawar had moved NGT’s western zonal bench alleging that authorities had refused to comply with a November 2020 order from the state environment department to clear the channels for the flow of water into Panje. Accordingly, the NGT bench asked both Cidco and the Raigad district collector to comply with the order and file an action taken report. This move also comes on the heels of instructions by the HC -appointed Mangrove Protection and Conservation Committee, which on October 25 directed Cidco to clear the five choke points at the wetland.
“Panje has been dry for almost a whole year now, except for some brief heavy rains during the monsoon. This move will hopefully restore the ecology and bring back the birds who have been missing from the area. The land is currently on lease to the Navi Mumbai Special Economic Zone (NMSEZ) by Cidco, and public access has been restricted. Hopefully, birders and researchers will now be allowed back into the area,” said Pawar. NGT will hear the matter again on December 15.