Greens cry foul as govt maps only 1,243 wetlands in National Atlas | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Greens cry foul as govt maps only 1,243 wetlands in National Atlas

May 05, 2023 07:12 PM IST

The 7,57,040 wetlands listed by the National Wetlands Atlas appear to have lost their significance as just 1,243 of these water bodies are added to the list mapped by the Indian Wetlands website. An RTI application for details of wetlands identified and notified has opened a pandora’s box

NAVI MUMBAI : The 7,57,040 wetlands listed by the National Wetlands Atlas appear to have lost their significance as just 1,243 of these water bodies are added to the list mapped by the Indian Wetlands website.

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An application under the RTI Act for details of the wetlands identified and notified has opened a pandora’s box as the official response led the applicant to the Indian Wetlands website.

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The website appears to be a half-hearted attempt since it does not give complete detailed information on the locations of all the Atlas listed sites, NatConnect Foundation said.

The website prepared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Control (MOEFCC) shows a playground at Sanpada as a wetland. This area must have been a waterbody ages ago before the Sanpada node was developed, yet the official listing has not been corrected, said NatConnect director B N Kumar, an old-time resident of Navi Mumbai for the past four decades. This is a cruel joke on the efforts to conserve wetlands, he said.

In all 75 of the 1,243 wetlands added to the web site are Ramsar Sites and another 115 are mentioned as significant wetlands and 1,053 as other wetlands.

Kumar said the map does not reflect any of the wetlands for protection for which the environmental groups have been fighting. “The intertidal wetlands of Belpada, Bhendkhal, Panje, BRI and TS Chanakya figure not only in BNHS reports, but the Mangrove Foundation’s Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS) Management Plan 2020-2030,” he said.

He lamented, “The lack of official clarity, despite repeated requests, allows project proponents including the government owned CIDCO and JNPA to claim that the wetlands do not exist and that these are developable land parcels.”

Since no clear-cut demarcation or definition of the identified and notified wetlands is available in public domain, NatConnect filed the RTI application. The National Wetland Atlas tool does not indicate any clear-cut idea as the maps cannot be understood by the commoner, Kumar pointed out in his RTI application.

Nandakumar Pawar, head of Sagarshakti, the marine wing of NGO Vanashakti, argued that project proponents such as CIDCO and JNPA have been taking shelter under the fact that the Navi Mumbai wetlands are not notified by the MOEFCC.

Even the Mangrove Cell had to face disappointment as its plan to conserve the wetlands at Belpada, Bhendkhal, Panje in Uran and NRI and TS Chanakya in Nerul was rejected outright by CIDCO. The planner stuck to its guns saying the five properties are all developable land parcels which is very unfortunate Pawar said.

Vishnu Joshi of Parsik Greens, a forum, expressed shock at the fact that the identified wetlands of Navi Mumbai region do not figure anywhere in the official map. Said Joshi, “The government must now walk the talk as all the promises and statements so far have not yielded any results.”

Said Jyoti Nadkarni of Kharghar Hill and Wetlands Forum, “Wetlands in Kharghar and neighbourhood have been under attack for quite some time and the lack of clarity over listed and notified wetlands from the Ministry has been causing tremendous confusion.”

She said, “In fact, we were part of the committee that identified wetlands here and it was for the government to notify them. As that has not happened, the wetlands continue to be threatened by unscrupulous elements.”

Demanded Nadkarni, “Till the wetland notification work is completed we want notice board around wetlands saying `No debris dumping. no reclamation under wetland protection rules and regulations’. This is the least that the authorities can do.”

In their fresh joint email to Bhupender Yadav, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Control, Kumar and Pawar appreciated the Minister for his concerns that the “wetlands often get neglected as public goods”. Speaking at the North-East Regional Wetlands meet over the week-end, Yadav had said the entire society needs to come together to protect these ecosystems.

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No wetlands in Navi Mumbai region claim concerned organisations

CIDCO which also holds a share in NMSEZ, JNPA and other concerned agencies have repeatedly stated that there are no wetlands in the area and dismissed the claims and allegations of the green activists as misinformation.

The agencies have stated that no wetlands have been notified in the area with the original status being paddy field etc. They claim that the land allotted to various projects are as per norms stipulated and are used as per the land use policy of the government.

The agencies have also pointed out that as per the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rule 2017 Gazette Notification dated 26/9/2017, it is defined wetland as under: (g) “wetland” means.....does not include river channels, paddy fields, human made water bodies / tanks specifically constructed for drinking water purposes and structures specifically constructed for aquaculture, salt production, recreation and irrigation purposes.

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