Kanjur draws black kites, may threaten aircraft safety while landing: BNHS tells Bombay HC
This is among numerous submissions made in a report by the Bombay Natural History Society , a wildlife research body, to the Bombay high court based on the latter’s directions to evaluate the impact of solid waste management at the landfill on birds and the surrounding ecosystemUpdated: Oct 09, 2020, 10:10 IST
The expansion of the Kanjurmarg landfill and dumping of municipal solid waste has been attracting thousands of black kites and cattle egrets over the dumpsite posing an air safety threat to flights landing at the Mumbai airport.
This is among numerous submissions made in a report by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), a wildlife research body, to the Bombay high court (HC) based on the latter’s directions to evaluate the impact of solid waste management at the landfill on birds and the surrounding ecosystem.
According to the report, which HT has reviewed, BNHS also told HC that leachate (liquid by-product when waste gets decomposed) collection ponds close to mangroves within the landfill could spill over during heavy rainfall leading to creek water contamination. Another major submission highlighted that the entire 141-hectare landfill was originally saltpan land thus establishing that it was protected under Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) laws contrary to submissions by the then state chief secretary before the Supreme Court (SC) in 2003 that the plot was free of CRZ. BNHS also found mangroves had regenerated within the landfill, and these had not yet been identified or declared as a reserved forest.
The Kanjur landfill, where scientific waste disposal is undertaken, is adjacent to the 1,690 ha Thane creek flamingo sanctuary but has been left out of the proposed eco-sensitive zone (buffer area). Until earlier this year, the sanctuary was spread across 68.5 ha but the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) expanded the size of the landfill by acquiring an additional 52.5 ha. This was challenged by Vanashakti before the HC alleging a violation of CRZ norms and safety of the flamingo sanctuary. But the HC allowed the expansion on December 5, 2019, saying BMC had acquired all necessary clearances. Subsequently, the matter was challenged by Vanashakti before the SC. However, the SC in February ultimately directed the HC to close the issue within three months and allowed BMC to commence dumping waste across the entire landfill.
On February 26, the HC directed BNHS and the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to undertake field visits and submit reports evaluating the impact of waste dumping at the landfill on birds, mangroves, and mudflats. BNHS conducted two site visits – on March 6 and October 1 - along with BMC officials and the local contractor.
“During our site visits we observed large concentrations of black kites and cattle egrets roosting on mangroves, the pylons of the transmission lines, and even within the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP). The impact of this very large population of kites on smaller birds, lizards, etc within SGNP and on flight safety needs to be studied in greater detail. This is particularly important since the landfill is adjacent to the funnel of flight landing path, and the kites soar and fly in and around the landfill site and their roosting sites along the pylons along the Vashi creek bridge,” said the report.
Debi Goenka, an honorary secretary, BNHS, said, “We have done a number of bird strike projects in the past and have a lot of expertise in this area. As mentioned in the report, thousands of birds are roosting there due to food abundantly available with 5,000 tons of garbage lying there at any given time. These birds are flying through the landing cone for aircraft, which is very dangerous when flights are landing. Secondly, these birds are also roosting in SGNP affecting numbers and species diversity of other birds.”
BNHS identified the presence of 48 bird species (31 migratory and 17 resident) between October 2018 and February with maximum flamingos (approximately 4,300) in February. “Contaminants from the leachate are known to cause adverse impacts on the condition of birds. However, we have stated in our report that a detailed study is required, including assessment of blood and tissue samples, to determine the bioaccumulation of heavy metals in birds,” said Goenka.
The report said that the landfill site was originally salt pan land, and was acquired by BMC for the solid waste management on the basis that it was not within the CRZ. “The data provided by the BMC states that the landfill comprises 141.77 ha land including 65.96 ha non-CRZ area, 52.45 ha CRZ area, and 23.36 ha mangroves (CRZ1A),” it said.
The mangroves within the site have been notified as forests and handed over to the forest department as per HC orders. “We were informed that the extent of mangroves within the landfill had increased by approximately 8 to 9 ha along the northeast portion. These additional mangrove areas have not been notified as reserved forests,” the report said.
The petitioner said the height of the garbage dump was taller than the Deonar dump. “The fact that an intertidal CRZ1 wetland is being abused, polluted and degraded is something which no authority in the state is willing to take cognisance of,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti.
According to BMC, the city currently generates 5.400 tons of solid waste apart from biomedical waste (approximately 24 tonnes). Of this, 60% of the waste is sent to Kanjur while the remaining is sent to Deonar. “We will study recommendations by BNHS. Since the matter is sub-judice, I cannot comment on it but we will be submitting our response before the HC if we are asked,” said Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner, BMC.