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Mangrove park off radar even after Navi Mumbai airport work takes off

Eight years after the Navi Mumbai airport received environment clearance on condition that mangroves will be planted to compensate for wetlands destroyed by the project, Cidco is yet to allocate a site for the mangrove park

mumbai Updated: Sep 16, 2018 05:06 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Navi Mumbai airport,Mangroves,Environment clearance
Navi Mumbai airport site at Panvel in Navi Mumbai, India, on Friday, August 31, 2018. (HT File Photo)

Eight years after the Navi Mumbai airport received environment clearance (EC) on condition that mangroves will be planted to compensate for wetlands destroyed by the project, the City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) is yet to allocate a site for the mangrove park.

Environmentalists say Cidco has violated EC guidelines since levelling work has started for the airport. “With environment clearances issued over eight years ago, there was enough time for both Cidco and other project proponents to build the park,” said Godfrey Pimenta of Watchdog Foundation.

“The planning for such activities should have begun long ago, and not after airport construction begins,” he added.

Against the loss of 108.5 hectare mangrove forests, the EC issued by the Union environment ministry on November 22, 2010, says, “Cidco shall undertake the development of the green area, maintained in the shape of biodiversity mangrove parks well before the airport project is initiated.”

Cidco is expected to plant and protect over 615 hectares of mangroves, of which 245 hectares would comprise the biodiversity mangrove park (see satellite image).

On the west side of the proposed airport site, there are 60 hectares of mangroves around Moha and Panvel creeks that are to be restored and 310 hectares between Gadhi River, Mankhurd Panvel Rail Corridor and National Highway 4B, on the northeast end of the airport, shall be declared a no-development zone.

The mangrove park was originally planned at Vaghivli, north of the airport, but after the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) warned about the possibility of bird hits should a mangrove park come up near the airport, Cidco started looking at other sites.

Cidco officials told HT that they were yet to decide on the exact location of the mangrove park.

“We have had one or two rounds of discussion and have identified another site at Nhava towards Uran, but we are still trying if the plan can be tweaked at Vaghivli itself. It is not as if there is no plan in place; we are yet to take the final decision,” said Lokesh Chandra, vice chairman and managing director, Cidco.

Deepak Apte, director of BNHS, said that if no alternate locations can be identified, they will reconsider Vaghivli as the site for the mangrove park. “This can be done by changing the proposal from a park to a habitat management program. There is no choice of not doing it as this is an important issue and it has to be done carefully. We are working with Cidco on this project, we are exploring different options, and resolution will come across soon,” said Apte.

The forest department’s mangrove cell said that they have started planting mangroves. “We have planted mangrove saplings across 210 hectares towards the creek end of the airport, which was funded by Cidco,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.

Another mangrove cell official said the survival rate of the plantations was 80%.

“We have planted grey mangrove (Avicennia marina), Indian mangrove (Avicennia officinalis), mangrove apple (Sonneratia Apetala) and the Asiatic mangrove (Rhizophora mucronata) at the site,” said Makarand Ghodke, assistant conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.

First Published: Sep 16, 2018 05:06 IST