Mumbai: Environmentalists begin digital drive against MMR wetland destruction

According to Wetlands International South Asia, Mumbai lost 71% of its wetlands between 1970 and 2014. MMR is home to a large number of wetlands; Raigad district alone has identified 130 wetlands
Bhendkhal wetland in Uran in Navi Mumbai. (File photo)
Bhendkhal wetland in Uran in Navi Mumbai. (File photo)
Published on Jan 25, 2021 11:59 AM IST
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ByNeha LM Tripathi

Ahead of the World Wetlands Day on February 2, environmentalists have kick-started the first green digital agitation on the all-round destruction of urban sponges in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) with a series of virtual activities.

For over a decade, MMR has been rapidly losing its wetlands to urbanisation and infrastructure development, leading to a considerable decline in bird life as well increasing instances of flooding during the monsoon. According to Wetlands International South Asia (WISA), Mumbai lost 71% of its wetlands between 1970 and 2014.

MMR is home to a large number of wetlands; Raigad district alone has identified 130 wetlands. Environmentalists have, therefore, been raising grave concerns on the issue of destruction of wetlands.

BN Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation, who floated an online petition asking people to raise their voice against the destruction, said, “Since physical activities are limited due to the pandemic, we have chosen the online route to raise our collective voice to stir up the conscience of the powers-that-be and the people in general. NatConnect began to mobilise further support to the cause of wetlands through a series of tweets, posting photographs of the destruction.”

According to environmentalists, burial of wetlands such as Panje, Belpada, Bhendkhal and Sawahkhar in Uran has been impacting lives and livelihoods, with the fishing community, the original habitants, losing their source of survival and the constitutional right to practice their trade.

Nandakumar Pawar, director Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan said, “Wetlands are supposed to be urban sponges and they are nature’s gift to mankind as a flood control mechanism. In their absence, water finds its own course. Our urban planners ignore this and the result is flooding of Uran villages and paddy fields, with saline water.”

Disappearance of wetlands, along with mangroves, is having a disastrous effect on the fishing community. “Hence, we have initiated with this digital agitation. Protect some wetlands such as Panje and Talawe as bird sanctuaries, maintain floodplains under the river regulatory zone on the banks of all rivers – both monsoon and perennial – and above all, learn from experience of floods and allow people to live,” Kumar added.

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