Maharashtra: Uran to get its first mangrove park by June 2021
The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), the largest port container terminal in India, plans to build a 200-hectare (ha) mangrove park at Belpada in Navi Mumbai’s Uran by June 2021.
The area, along with other eco-sensitive zones in Uran, has faced the problem of debris dumping that has threatened mangrove patches in the Raigad district. The development of a mangrove park, the first in Uran, has been a longstanding demand by environmentalists. It has also been suggested by the State Wetland and Mangrove Grievance Redressal Committee appointed by the Bombay high court in January 2019.
“We have committed to building an eco-park to showcase the mangrove biodiversity in Belpada region under our jurisdiction,” said SV Madabhavi, chief manager (port, planning and development), JNPT. “Over the years, we have been unnecessarily dragged into the controversy regarding the degradation of mangroves. We have never been involved in such activities. We remain a socially conscious organisation, committed to the environment, community, stakeholders, employees, and the industry.”
JNPT has roped in the Forest Department Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) to conduct a feasibility study. It plans to develop the park in two phases. “Since we are mostly engineers or associated with port-related matters, we do not have much knowledge on how to build a biodiversity conservation plan. Thus, we needed experts,” said Madhabhavi.
The first phase of the park is expected to be ready by June 2021 at a cost of ₹5 crore which will protect two dense mangrove patches and house visiting galleries, mangrove walkthroughs (boardwalks), structures such as an education and nature interpretation centre, and a nursery with rare mangrove species. “In these zones, our intention is to develop a biodiversity park where we can showcase the natural ecosystem, mangrove growth, and open it up for visitors by having mangrove trails, etc. JNPT does not have any issue with fund allocation for the annual upkeep of this park,” said Madabhavi. “The second phase would include the protection of water bodies to protect the migratory bird habitat in this region.”
JNPT said the plan of action for the proposed park is awaiting submission from FDCM, post which all details will be finalised.
Krishna Bhavar, divisional manager (Thane), FDCM, said, “The area of the mangrove park as suggested by JNPT is 200 ha. It will take us two to three months to submit the feasibility report. Once approved, if JNPT gives us a work order, we are ready to put together a detailed project report and plan for the park. We are yet to sign a formal memorandum of understanding (MoU). We visited the site twice, and it is conducive to have a mangrove park there.”
In March, JNPT had approached the State Mangrove Cell and the Mangrove Foundation to help draw up the park plan. “We were told that mangrove cell cannot implement this,” said Madabhavi.
Virendra Tiwari, the additional principal chief conservator of forest (Mangrove Cell), said, “It is good to know that JNPT is planning to develop a mangrove park near Belpada village, which can be an example of biodiversity conservation and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities to local communities. However, the Mangrove Cell or the Foundation do not have the requisite expertise for the preparation of the design of the park but we would like to be involved in the project in an advisory role.”
“A mangrove park is like a dream project for us. We hope this will encourage eco-tourism, and also expect JNPT to start respecting mangroves as a natural protector of the coast and preserve them,” said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation, which had requested the high court panel last year to create a park with the twin objectives of protecting mangroves and creating public education zone.
Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishthan, said the project could be an eyewash as JNPT has allegedly destroyed several Uran wetlands already. “They have been caught red-handed killing 4,500 mangroves for which a case had been filed but no one was arrested. Now, a large stretch is being buried with debris and earth off National Highway 348. JNPT must stop this destruction and handover mangroves under their jurisdiction to the forest department without further delay,” Pawar said.