Panje wetland in Uran being reclaimed again, BNHS tells CM
Despite directions from government agencies that the 213-hectare (ha) Panje wetland, home to five lakh migratory birds, should be protected, debris is being dumped at the site, environmentalists alleged.
The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has filed a complaint with the chief minister, stating the earlier studies have shown that if the birds lose Panje, they will move to wetlands near the under-construction Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) which will endanger air safety.
Uran tehsildar Bhausaheb Andhare refused to comment on the allegations. Raigad collector Vijay Suryavanshi said he will follow up on the complaints with the City Industrial Development Corporation Ltd. (Cidco), the planning agency for the area.
Cidco confirmed that reclamation was in fact underway. “The area falls along the periphery of Panje and outside our jurisdiction. A private company has undertaken reclamation work as the land belongs to them. The matter is not in our hands,” said Pramod Patil, nodal officer (environment), Cidco, which has 26% stake in the industrial zone.
On November 1, the state’s coastal authority told the Bombay high court that Panje and Karanje fall under coastal zone regulation (CRZ) I, which prohibits any construction in the area. Neenu Somraj, member secretary, HC-appointed state wetland committee, said, “Panje is not recognised legally as a wetland. The district administration has not proposed the site as a wetland. The Raigad collector has been told to ensure the area is protected as it is eco-sensitive, and also write to the state government to declare it as a wetland. We will follow up with all state bodies during our next meeting on the status of the site.”
Since 2018, environmentalists have been demanding conservation of the wetland, which is on the Central Asian Flyway. “The reclamation is underway towards the eastern end,” said environmentalist Aishwarya Sridhar, who shared images with Hindustan Times showing reclamation at Panje. “A private company has undertaken a survey and while talking them, I learnt that major areas of Panje will be filled up over the next two-three months. Their plan is to fill up the entire wetland within a year to start work on an industrial zone.”
“Either the industrial zone can come up or the airport,” said Deepak Apte, director, BNHS. “Panje is a high quality wetland and one of the best high tide roosting sites in Maharashtra. Any degradation is stark warning for loss of human life in case of air disaster at NMIA.”