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Centre notifies revised eco zone around Thane flamingo sanctuary

Published on May 05, 2021 01:27 AM IST

The Union environment ministry has notified a revised eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of 48 square kilometres (sq km) around the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS), spread across Mumbai suburban and Thane districts

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ByPrayag Arora-Desai

The Union environment ministry has notified a revised eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of 48 square kilometres (sq km) around the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS), spread across Mumbai suburban and Thane districts. The draft proposal, which was sent to the ministry by the Maharashtra government in March, was gazetted on April 30. The ministry has given a 60-day window to receive public comments on the notification.

The move will increase the area earmarked for protection by the forest department, which had initially proposed to include just 34.06 sq km within ESZ. The state government had, in March, written to the Centre proposing to include an additional 14 sq km of land within ESZ.

An ESZ is a buffer area created around a wildlife sanctuary or national park to reduce developmental pressures.

The proposal has 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 southern-most point near Vashi bridge, the width of ESZ is 0km, while at its northernmost point at Thane-Kalwa bridge, the width is 2km.

Spread across 1,690.5 hectares (ha) across Mulund, Vikhroli, Bhandup, Kanjur and parts of Mandale village, 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.

“There is increase of about 14 sq km from the earlier notified ESZ of 34 sq km. Mangroves of Navi Mumbai area have been included in the current notification. It will go a long way in conservation of mangroves in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) region,” said Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forests (mangrove cell).

About 1,400ha of mangrove forests towards the Navi Mumbai side of ESZ were not originally covered in the ambit of the original ESZ delineation because they were already declared as reserve forests under the Indian Forest Act, forest department officials said. They are also covered under CRZ (coastal regulation zone). However, last February, the ministry recommended their inclusion in ESZ.

Environmentalists, however, remained skeptical of the development.

“The solution here is to declare TCFS as a wildlife sanctuary under the Wildlife Act. An ESZ notification won’t offer much protection as seen in case of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, where developmental activities are undertaken inches away from the boundary of the protected area,” said D Stalin, director, non-governmental organization (NGO) Vanashakti.

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