Maharashtra: Barely any rain yet Uran village flooded again; Environmentalists blame wetland burial
A similar flooding was reported last year also in Kunde and 19 other villages, affecting 1,236 families between September and October. Local residents said this has happened for the first time this yearUpdated: Oct 20, 2020, 11:08 IST
The village of Kunde in Uran taluka of Maharashtra’s Raigad district was flooded early on Monday. While the area has received just 8.6 mm rain over the past 48 hours, according to the district administration, environmentalists allege that this unseasonal flooding was caused by blocking of tidal waters in other areas of Uran.
A similar flooding was reported last year also in Kunde and 19 other villages, affecting 1,236 families between September and October. Local residents said this has happened for the first time this year.
Kunde resident Sanman Patil said, “Four homes were completely flooded early Monday morning and it took about five hours to remove the water. Even though our village is located closest to the creek and there have been episodes of heavy rain, this kind of flooding wasn’t witnessed last year or this year. Neither has there been very heavy rain nor did the water gush in during high tide. We are confused about what happened.”
Raigad sub-divisional officer Dattatray Navale said, “We are investigating the source of flooding and have directed the Uran revenue officer to check and present his submissions.”
Environmentalists, however, point at the burial of wetlands and destruction of mangroves by various infrastructure projects being developed in the taluka.
Satellite maps of the site show large scale landfilling at adjacent plots that have been marked for development under the City Industrial Development Corporation Ltd’s (Cidco) Dronagiri node development plan (DP). Apart from this, Uran-Ulwe is witnessing the development of the Navi Mumbai International Airport, container terminal construction by the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), and other residential and industrial projects.
“It is due to the callous attitude of state planning agencies such as Cidco that the Uran villagers have to suffer every year,” said Nandakumar Pawar, head, environment group Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishthan.
In February 2019, the Maharashtra Cabinet gave its nod to convert 1,250-hectares (ha) of land, which includes large tracts of mangroves and wetlands, for industrial and residential construction. At least 12 zones, including Kunde, across 1,250-ha have been notified for development under the Navi Mumbai Special Economic Zone (NMSEZ). This constitutes nearly half of the 2,700-ha Dronagiri node. Cidco, the planning agency for the area, holds a 26% stake in NMSEZ while the rest is shared by private companies.
“Landfilling has been confirmed by the Raigad collector’s office and the forest department,” said BN Kumar, director, NatConnect Foundation, adding that repeated directions by the wetland and mangrove redressal committee (constituted as per the Bombay high court’s orders) for restoration of areas where construction debris was dumped in Uran have allegedly been neglected .
A 2019 report by environment group Vanashakti using satellite images said 1,281-ha of wetlands (the size of 1,740 football fields) had been lost to reclamation, and over 10,000-ha of mangrove forests had either dried up or been destroyed over two years. “Large mangrove and wetland stretches have been recklessly buried. Any further reclamation would spell ecological disaster for the entire Uran taluka,” said Kumar.
According to Cidco’s Dronagiri DP, 233-ha area marked as wetlands under the National Wetland Atlas, Maharashtra,has been earmarked as sectors numbered 16 to 28. These include wetland patches identified as important bird areas by Bombay Natural History Society.
An NMSEZ spokesperson said they were unaware about the flooding but Cidco would know.
“Neither are Cidco, NMSEZ and JNPT constructing anything at the moment at Dronagiri nor has there been any debris dumping. We are clueless as to what caused the flooding. Any future construction plans within Uran under any of the projects have been stopped because of the pandemic,” said Pramod Patil, nodal officer (environment), Cidco.