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Protect Panje even if it is not a wetland: State panel to Cidco

Area is a no-development zone but not listed in National Wetland Atlas, 2011
By Badri Chatterjee, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON SEP 22, 2019 11:44 PM IST

The state committee appointed by the Bombay high court (HC) to protect wetland and mangroves, has directed the City Industrial Development Corporation Ltd (Cidco) to protect Panje area in Navi Mumbai from development, even if it is not officially recognised as a wetland.

The decision was taken during the committee’s last meeting on Friday.

On August 8, the committee had said that despite Panje possessing characteristics of a wetland, it cannot be considered one because the area is not designated as such in the National Wetland Atlas, 2011.

“Based on the ecological characteristics of Panje, it was realised that the area needs to be protected and has to be notified officially as a wetland,” said Shivaji Daunde, Konkan commissioner and chairman of the wetland and mangrove committee.

Spread across 213 hectare (ha) core or foraging area and 157 ha buffer area for a migratory bird roosting zone, Panje is home to around 50,000 birds (migratory and resident) during winter.

The state wildlife board had decided to declare the area a bird sanctuary in 2015, but the notification was never published.

“I have directed the regional authorities and forest department to survey the area, come up with exact coordinates, and submit them before the committee. Details will be discussed with various state departments to officially notify this site over the next two months,” said Daunde.

Neenu Somraj, member-secretary of the committee,said, “During every committee meeting we receive complaints regarding [destruction of] Panje and Bhendkhal. While Cidco is restoring the Bhendkhal wetland, as far as Panje is concerned, we have given instructions that there should not be any reclamation activity carried out there.”

Somraj said the state mangrove cell will be meeting Cidco to draw up a plan to get Panje included in the list of wetlands in Raigad.

“As per Cidco’s development plan, Panje is a no-development zone. We will ensure no development happens at this site,” said Pramod Patil nodal officer (environment), Cidco.

Other members of the HC-appointed committee said directions issued on Friday act only as an advisory.

“Officially notifying Panje as a wetland does not rest with the committee as it is not our mandate to notify wetlands. It has to be done by the Maharashtra government only,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti.

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