Mumbai’s favourite flamingo watching site at Sewri to be closed for at least 7 years

The area will be out of bounds as work begins at the Sewri-end of the 22-km-long Mumbai-Trans-Harbour Link
Mangroves cut at Sewri Creek for the upcoming project in Mumbai.(ANSHUMAN POYREKAR/HTPHOTO)
Mangroves cut at Sewri Creek for the upcoming project in Mumbai.(ANSHUMAN POYREKAR/HTPHOTO)
Updated on May 12, 2018 01:44 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByBadri Chatterjee and Anshuman Poyrekar, Mumbai

Bird lovers who flocked to the Sewri seashore to watch migratory flamingos feeding in the mudflats of the Thane Creek are disappointed to know that the area will be out of bounds for visitors as work begins at the Sewri-end of the 22-kilometre long Mumbai-Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL) which will connect Mumbai to Jawaharlal Nehru Port (Navi Mumbai).

The location where flamingo watchers used to gather to watch thousands of birds has been barricaded for construction.

HT visited the site located near the Sewri jetty and found large tracts of mangrove trees had been hacked and a gate was being constructed in the area where the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) conducts the flamingo festival every year. “Since there will be large machines at work on this site, we will have to cordon off the area, and citizens will not be allowed to enter for their own safety. For this, a gate is being setup. Flamingos have already begun moving a few 100 metres away from this site, and for at least the next seven years, people cannot visit this spot to see them,” said a technical officer at the construction site, on the condition of anonymity.

For the last six years, the BNHS has been organising the flamingo festival at Sewri between November and May when the birds arrive in Mumbai.

“Sewri has been an excellent spot where large number of people, almost 15,000 at any given time, could get a view of the vast open wetland area and could see these birds from one location. Other places cannot offer such an experience and this is surely a loss,” said Deepak Apte, director, BNHS. “However, we have been promised by the government that once the bridge construction is completed, a flamingo festival area will come up at Sewri itself, and we are currently working on a blueprint for this with the state.”

Environmentalists and birders called the construct a tragedy. “The loss of the Sewri flamingo habitat is a clear indicator of how the government views biodiversity conservation today. The state government is bulldozing all wildlife habitats in the eyes of development,” said Stalin D, director of environment group Vanashakti.

Debi Goenka, executive trustee of the environment group Conservation Action Trust, said that the project will cater to vehicles owners. “If they really cared about the public at large, they would build a railway line along the existing Navi Mumbai road route, and then there would have been no need for such a project.”

Sudhir Gaikwad Inamdar, wildlife photographer and city-based birder, said, “As the construction activity takes pace, noise pollution from the project will ensure these birds move to another habitat. It is a really big loss for bird enthusiasts as the arrival of flamingos has already declined this year, and with such projects, it is expected to be worse in the years to come.”

The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) is building the MTHL, which is expected to be the country’s longest sea link.

The state mangrove cell said a 1,000 mangrove trees had been destroyed (across patches amounting to 1 ha) with all clearances from the central government. “The project proponents got all clearances from the government of India. For such linear projects, an environmental nod from the central government is enough to commence construction. MMRDA has completed all legal formalities, including submitting funds to the Mangrove Foundation under the state government for safeguarding flamingo habitat in other parts of the eastern suburbs, compensatory afforestation for the loss of mangrove cover and boosting resources for the mangrove and marine biodiversity centre in Airoli,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.

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