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Protection for Bhandup wetland planned as Maharashtra government to regulate entry to Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary

By Badri Chatterjee, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON OCT 26, 2020 11:39 PM IST

The Maharashtra forest department has decided to regulate the entry of visitors to the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS) from its Bhandup entry point in the city’s eastern suburbs. The move is aimed to protect the 11-hectare Bhandup pumping station area – a satellite wetland of the sanctuary.

The decision was announced on Monday by the state mangrove cell under the forest department.

So far, visitors’ entry to the sanctuary was only from the Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Centre (CBMC) at Airoli, Navi Mumbai. Now, regulated entry from Bhandup will open up entry to the sanctuary from Mumbai as well.

The cell has decided to erect check posts, place barricades, set up a time frame for entry and exit, and levy entry fees for visitors, vehicles, and camera use.

“We expect all regulations to be in place by mid-November,” said Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forest (mangrove cell), adding, “The idea behind this is to enhance security measures around the sanctuary as proposed under the TCFS management plan. Fees collected from visitors will be utilised for the maintenance and development of the area. This will also provide much-needed protection to the Bhandup pumping station (BPS) – TCFS’ satellite wetland under the management plan.”

According to Tiwari, the tentative entry fee will be 50 per person, 50 for two-wheelers, 100 for four-wheelers, and 100-200 as camera fee. “These are still tentative amounts. Final figures will be updated close to the date regulation commences,” said Tiwari.

A team of eight security personnel from the Maharashtra State Security Corporation (MSSC) will be deployed at the Bhandup entry point. “We are planning to keep the entry point open between 6am and 10am and 4pm to 6pm. The security staff will work round-the-clock and will also be in charge of patrolling inside the sanctuary. We also plan to set up a board on the eastern express highway directing visitors to the sanctuary,” said Tiwari, adding that the check post will be opposite BPS. “There will be a barrier on the road where the counter will be placed for fee collection.”

According to the Bombay Natural History Society (BHNS), BPS is surrounded with mangroves, except eastern patches occupied by salt farms. The area has 30 bird species and 14 migratory species.

Last Sunday, the mangrove cell and environment group Vanashakti removed 400kg waste during a clean-up drive at BPS and areas adjacent to the sanctuary. “We have always maintained that BPS is a forested area, and the department should have a permanent posting. This is now being done. It will help to protect the sanctuary habitat much better and prevent misuse. This had been a long-standing demand as it automatically protects BPS as well,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti.

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