Union environment ministry notifies final ESZ around Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary

The Union environment ministry has notified the final demarcation of the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) around Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS)
The Union environment ministry has notified the final demarcation of the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) around Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS) (HT FILE)
The Union environment ministry has notified the final demarcation of the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) around Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS) (HT FILE)
Published on Oct 19, 2021 11:20 PM IST
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ByPrayag Arora-Desai, Mumbai

The Union environment ministry has notified the final demarcation of the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) around Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS). The notification was gazetted on October 14 and accessed by Hindustan Times on Tuesday. With the ESZ now in effect, certain activities such as setting up of new, polluting industries will be prohibited in a 48 square kilometre (sq km) zone around TCFS, while others such as construction, eco-tourism and infrastructure expansion will be regulated by a ministry-appointed ESZ management committee.

An ESZ is a buffer zone created around protected areas – namely wildlife sanctuaries and national parks – to reduce developmental pressures on the environment. After several months of being in the offing, the Centre had recommended final notification for the delineated ESZs on August 17 during a Union environment ministry’s ESZ expert committee meeting, the minutes of which were published on September 8.

The draft notification for the declaration of ESZ around TCFS was first notified on November 6, 2019, but was subsequently re-notified on April 30 after the Maharashtra government revised its proposal to increase the area earmarked for protection by the forest department. It was initially proposed to include 34.06 sq km of adjacent land within the ESZ, but the state government in March wrote to the Centre, proposing the inclusion of an additional 14 sq km of land therein.

The proposal also increased the maximum width of the originally proposed buffer area to a maximum of 3.98km, as compared to 3.5km earlier. At its southernmost point near Vashi bridge, the width of ESZ is 0km, while at its northernmost point at Thane-Kalwa bridge, the width is 2km.

The ESZ monitoring committee that will implement the notification includes the additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF), mangrove cell; deputy conservator of forests (DCF), mangrove cell; district collectors of Thane and Mumbai; joint commissioner of Mumbai civic body, two independent experts in ecology and biodiversity nominated by the state and a regional officer of the Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board (MPCB) from either Mumbai or Thane. The APCCF (mangrove cell) will serve as the chairman.

“All development work that is permissible as per the notification will be monitored and sanctioned by the ESZ committee with conditions that the local environment and biodiversity cannot be harmed. This notification has been pending for a long time and the committee will conduct regular meetings to enforce its provisions to the fullest extent,” said Virendra Tiwari, APCCF, mangrove cell.

Spread across 1,690.5 hectares (ha) across Mulund, Vikhroli, Bhandup, Kanjurmarg and parts of Mandale village near Mankhurd, TCFS is home to 12 true mangrove species, 39 mangrove associates, 167 species of birds including flamingos, 45 fish species, 59 species of butterflies, 67 insect species, among other mammals such as jackals. In May 2018, the state had declared it a flamingo sanctuary.

The ESZ notification does not mitigate developmental pressures entirely. HT had reported on August 28 that the Union environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) for CRZ clearances has given a go-ahead for setting up 47 transmission towers in Mumbai, a portion of which will pass through TCFS for less than half a kilometre. EAC has recommended that bird diverters should be installed among the transmission lines “so as to avoid accidental collision of birds ie flamingos”. Similarly, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed bullet train has also been permitted to cut through the sanctuary, diverting just over 3ha of forest land.

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