Thane flamingo sanctuary, SGNP are best managed protected areas in Maha: Centre report
The Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS) and Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), Borivli, have been designated as the best managed protected areas (PAs) among 11 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in Maharashtra by a Central government panel, despite developmental pressures in the urban landscape.
The results of the management effectiveness evaluation (MEE) 2018-19, carried out by the western zone team of independent experts appointed by the Central government, assessed 11 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in the state and published evaluation cards that gave TCFS a score of 75.92%, followed by SGNP at 75.8%, both falling under the ‘very good’ category. All 11 wildlife sanctuaries were either under the ‘good’ or ‘very good’ categories.
MEE is a global framework to evaluate the protection level, management, and wildlife conservation ability of PAs. The details were revealed after the chief wildlife warden of Maharashtra received the results from the Centre during a meeting on February 4. The final pan-India report for all PAs is expected by March.
“Surrounded by massive urban growth, these two sanctuaries have the highest management strength among PAs we visited,” said UM Sahai, chairperson of the MEE committee and former chief wildlife warden of Rajasthan. “TCFS has over 30,000 flamingos in winter while being Asia’s largest creek ecosystem. SGNP is home to the highest leopard density globally for any protected area within a city-scape. These two zones are excellent eco-tourism destinations, good recreational zones and green lungs for the urban megapolis.”
The MEE report also identified management weaknesses and prepared action plans for PAs. For TCFS, weaknesses included peripheral development projects posing a threat to the flamingo habitat, inadequate staff members, water pollution, electric transmission lines, algal blooms, and increased siltation. Virendra Tiwari, mangrove cell chief in-charge of TCFS, said, “Efforts by the mangrove cell have paid off. Now we will initiate action on points mentioned by the committee taking the management to the next level.”
A large number of encroachments — 25,000 families in the periphery of the park, 1,900 families inside the park and 31 in core zone — was the major management issue for SGNP. Unregulated hawkers within the park, stray dog movement, trespassing of public into the core zone, garbage accumulation, inadequate veterinary infrastructure, and susceptibility of flooding owing to Dahisar river overflowing were other issues at SNGP. PAs in the state were evaluated last in 2005-06, when SGNP had score 62.1%. “Action on encroachment removal is already underway and an action plan is being drafted to address all problems raised during the evaluation on a priority basis,” said Anwar Ahmed, director and chief conservator of forest, SGNP.
Nitin Kakodkar, chief wildlife warden, Maharashtra, said compliance reports will be sought from forest officials on the issues that were raised. “Overall, Maharashtra has performed well. The exercise for other sanctuaries were either done in 2005-06, or will be done in coming years,” said Nitin Kakodkar, chief wildlife warden, Maharashtra.
Mayureswar Supe Wildlife Sanctuary in Pune district was the third-best managed PA with a 75% score (‘very good’). The lowest rating was for Painganga Wildlife Sanctuary in Vidarbha at 62.06% (‘good’), while Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, Vasai, scored 64% (‘good’).
The recently declared Ramsar site — wetland of international importance — Nandur Madhmeshwar in Nashik scored 64.6% with the MEE report flagging issues of severe water scarcity, illegal fishing, agricultural pressures, and no comprehensive management plan.
Maharashtra has 49 wildlife sanctuaries, six national parks and six conservation reserves, taking the tally of PAs to 61, spread across 9,500 square km, one of the highest in India.
Independent experts said judicial intervention had helped boost management for most PAs. “Pressure through court orders and constant follow-up has kept the department on its toes. However, owing to low tourism footfall in interior Maharashtra, more efforts are needed to ramp up management,” said Madhav Gogate, former chief wildlife warden, Maharashtra, and member of several MEE committees.