On January 3, the Thane district administration had submitted its final report to the state government, which showed only three wetlands, excluding the ones in Navi Mumbai.(Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)
On January 3, the Thane district administration had submitted its final report to the state government, which showed only three wetlands, excluding the ones in Navi Mumbai.(Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

Maharashtra re-examines ‘wetland’ status for Navi Mumbai flamingo haven

The team will make its submissions before the Bombay high court-appointed state wetland committee, which is headed by the Konkan commissioner, on October 27
By Badri Chatterjee | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON OCT 21, 2020 11:18 AM IST

The Thane district administration’s various bodies have undertaken a fresh verification drive from Monday to determine whether two sites in Navi Mumbai can be declared wetlands following an application by an environmentalist, who is also a local resident.

The team will make its submissions before the Bombay high court (HC)-appointed state wetland committee, which is headed by the Konkan commissioner, on October 27.

The team also identified debris dumping at the site and directed the City Industrial Development Corporation Ltd (Cidco), which is Navi Mumbai’s planning body, to clear it within a week.

Also read: Maharashtra forest department confirms mangroves were hacked at Navi Mumbai’s Panje; owner, Cidco to respond

The sites included the 21.9 hectare (ha) NRI Complex and 14.3-ha Training Ship Chanakya (TSC), where a record 9,000 flamingos had flocked in April and May.

However, both these sites were not included by the district administration in their final list of newly identified and verified wetlands in line with 2017 wetland rules that was submitted to the Maharashtra government’s environment department on January 3.

Cidco plans to develop a golf course and construct 17 buildings, including 1,564 flats and 20 office spaces, in the area, which have been opposed by environmentalists and the local residents.

The matter is pending before the Supreme Court.

Based on an application for rectification of their status in February by Sunil Agarwal, a petitioner before the Bombay HC on protection of these wetlands, the Konkan commissioner on September 27 had directed the Thane district collector to verify the submissions.

District officials said the areas could be declared as wetlands.

“We found that both these areas have all the features of wetlands and are also rich in biodiversity,” said Yuvraj Bangar, tehsildar (revenue officer), Thane.

“We are not aware of the Cidco’s stand. But a final report has been prepared by the sub-divisional officer (SDO) and will be presented before the Konkan commissioner on October 27. The matter will also be presented before the Thane district collector on Wednesday,” he added.

Avinash Shinde, SDO, Thane, said another complaint about construction materials dumped in TSC was identified by the joint inspection team on Monday. “We have been promised by Cidco that the debris from the area will be removed within seven days, and they will submit a compliance report before the HC-appointed committee,” he said.

Pramod Patil, nodal officer (environment), Cidco, said, “We are not aware, who dumped the debris, but we will ensure that it is removed. However, these two sites are not wetlands. They are land parcels and revenue records show them as saltpans and agricultural lands. As per 2017 wetland rules, these lands do not qualify to be declared as wetlands.”

On January 3, the Thane district administration had submitted its final report to the state government, which showed only three wetlands, excluding the ones in Navi Mumbai.

“We were surprised that the final report had left out these two key wetlands. Our application cited the reasons for their inclusion. We are hopeful that these two wetlands will be added to the verified list and a natural habitat for flamingos will be protected from concrete urban jungle and the proposed golf course,” said Agarwal.

‘Both sites extraordinary wetlands, land cannot be diverted for other use’

Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) authorities said that both the sites at Navi Mumbai have displayed essential wetland characteristics. “These are extraordinary wetlands that are used by a large number of migratory and resident water birds. On an average, around 50,000 birds, including around 15,000 near threatened lesser flamingos, can be observed roosting at this site at high tides during winter . We have recommended this site to be declared as protected areas in the studies carried out for the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) and Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL). Conversion of this land for a different purpose such as a golf course will jeopardise the air safety of the proposed airport, as birds may start using the NMIA and its influence zone for roosting purposes. This land should not be diverted to any other use,” BNHS had said in two separate reports to the state government.

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