Gurgaon: Why a proposed debris plant may scare away birds from Basai wetlands
The Basai ‘wetlands’ near Gurgaon, a birders’ paradise that attracts hundreds of winged visitors during winter, could soon be lost to a proposed construction and demolition (C&D) plant, environment activists have alleged.
A multinational construction firm has been granted permission to build a construction and demolition (C&D) waste processing plant over 3.5 acres at Basai. Bird watchers have flagged concerns over the project claiming the plant is coming up in the wetlands’ catchment area.
Birders have demanded that the plant be shifted as they fear that it would destroy the wetlands and scare away the birds. But officials at Gurgaon Municipal Corporation (MCG) are adamant, saying the plant will help to process tonnes of construction debris being dumped in the Aravallis and elsewhere.
“The birds will change their flight path if they sense a disturbance to the sensitive ecological balance of the area. There aren’t any settlements in the area and this makes the wetlands an ideal destination for migratory birds to nest. Setting up a plant will create disturbance and increase the level of pollutants in the air,” Soma Ateesh Tripathi, a member of Delhi Bird Society, said.
More than 240 species of birds such as Marbled Teal, Sarus Crane, Black-necked stork and Asian dowitcher visit the area. Flamingos and Black Francolin, the state bird of Haryana, were common in the wetlands once. Their population is now on the decline.
“The site stays submerged under water for most part of the year as a result of which birds find it an ideal destination. Now if the construction plant comes up in the vicinity, the birds might avoid Basai,” Lima Rosalind, conservation education and interpretation professional, Frangipani Consultancy Services, said.
The Basai wetlands have, over time, become a home away from home for migratory birds such as Waders ( which are water-dependent), Ducks (which require slightly deeper-water to survive) and Warblers (which prefer reeds).
‘NOT A WETLAND’
MCG officials, however, claimed that the area where the plant is coming is degraded land and not a wetland at all.
“Basai doesn’t have any scheduled wetlands. The area where the plant is coming up was actually a degraded land where some water accumulates during the monsoon and settles for the next few months. Hence, permission (to set up the C&D plant) was granted,” Sudhir Singh Chauhan, senior town planner associated with the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG), said.
He also claimed that the C&D plant would not only help process tonnes of construction and demolition waste that has evoked pollution concerns in Gurgaon, but would also help the civic body as it would be able to produce pipes and other construction materials by recycling the debris.
The MCG’s assurance that the C&D waste plant project will in no way threaten the sensitive ecological balance of the wetlands has failed to wash with birders. They allege that an officer of the pollution control board was recently transferred as he had raised objections and had refused to grant permission to the plant.
“The officer was transferred barely three months ago. The project got the green light soon after he was transferred,” said a bird enthusiast who asked not to be named.
Both the pollution control board and the MCG refuted the allegation.
Activists also alleged that micro-dust emanating from the plant would not just destroy the wetlands but also trigger large-scale pollution affecting the area’s greenery.
“We will create a bio-shield with trees around the project site in three concentric rings. The segregation of the construction debris would be done under water to reduce dust pollution. The plant would be operated in an eco-friendly manner,” Chauhan said.
Activists have not ruled out the option of stepping up protest and flagging their concerns at higher forums if need be. They said that they are not against the project but the site selected for setting up the plant.