Open gym construction along wetland enrages Kharghar residents, environmentalists

Published on Jun 17, 2022 07:40 PM IST

Several residents and environment activists have taken up the issue of open gym along a wetland in Kharghar with authorities including the Panvel City Municipal Corporation, CIDCO and the State Ministry; the gym is also on a CRZ buffer area, accepted CIDCO

An open gym has come along the Vastu Vihar wetland in Kharghar. The residents and environmentalists have opposed it saying it disturbed the flora and fauna. (BACHCHAN KUMAR/HT PHOTO)
An open gym has come along the Vastu Vihar wetland in Kharghar. The residents and environmentalists have opposed it saying it disturbed the flora and fauna. (BACHCHAN KUMAR/HT PHOTO)
By, Navi Mumbai

It was a sight to behold for many Kharghar residents on a cold February day, when they spotted flamingoes at the wetlands near Vastu Vihar in Sector 17 for the first time in a decade from their balconies.

The joy, however, has now turned into rage as within months of this incident, an open gym is being constructed along the wetland, disturbing the migratory birds visiting the area.

Several residents and environment activists have taken up the issue with authorities including the Panvel City Municipal Corporation (PCMC), CIDCO and the State Ministry. The gym is also on a CRZ buffer area, accepted CIDCO.

Seema Tank, a resident of Kharghar has been tweeting to highlight that the flora and fauna around the wetland is disturbed due to the open gym.

“Besides the surprise visit by flamingoes, other birds like seagulls, herons and spot-billed ducks are often spotted here. Sometimes even jackals are spotted. But with human intervention in this area, these animals and birds would get scared and stop visiting the area. In the name of development, we are breaking all rules and disturbing the ecosystem,” Tank said.

The open gym on the wetland was constructed by the PCMC on the proposal of BJP corporator Sanjana Kadam.

An officer from CIDCO said, “When we got to know about it, we escalated the matter with PCMC and said that no such funds should be released to develop anything to construct on wetlands. The corporation has promised to look into this as it flouts the CRZ norms.”

Meanwhile, the BJP Corporator defended the project by saying that the residents loved the open gym and it was built as per their demand.

“There is always a queue of people waiting to exercise there. People are loving the place. It was their demand to have an open gym amidst nature. In fact, there is a demand that the place should be developed into a chowpatty model that will also attract revenue,” Kadam said.

While a higher officer from PCMC said that the matter has been brought to his notice and has been forwarded to the ward officer of the area to enquire into the issues, ward officer, Jitendra Madhavi, did not answer phone calls or answer any messages.

Nareshchandra Singh, founder of Kharghar Wetlands and Hills Group, said, “This gym is on buffer areas around a CRZ 1B intertidal wetland. These buffer areas are there for a purpose. In case of a high tide, there is hardly any space left for many of the birds, reptiles, jackals, mongooses to take rest, forage, breed and conduct other activities. These buffer areas help provide this crucial space.”

In many cases, even such buffer areas may actually be inundated by extreme high tidal conditions, making things even more critical. Such cruel habitat grabbing acts are punishable under not only CRZ rules but also the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, Singh opined.

“If we disturb these areas like this, we fear that it may even cause a human wildlife conflict that could be tragic. So, there can be no concessions made when it comes to fragile ecosystems such as CRZ, wetlands and forestlands. The concerned authorities must come down heavily on those who willingly perpetrate such acts,” Singh said.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2022
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