Record flamingo numbers may clip wings of golf course project in Navi Mumbai
Close to a record 9,000 flamingos congregating across the Talawe wetlands in Navi Mumbai during the coronavirus-enforced lockdown has put the (golf) ball in the Maharashtra’s government’s court. The choice is between marking the area a conservation reserve or to go ahead with the plan of developing a golf course.
The area is government land and its possession is with the City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco), which plans to develop a golf course at the site. After the past month — in which the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has estimated that flamingo numbers are 25% more than last year’s owing to lower human activity — the state mangrove cell intends on protecting the Talawe wetlands as a buffer to the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary, said Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forest (mangrove cell).
“This area is currently government land, but possession is with Cidco. The mangrove cell has asked for a no-objection certificate and sought comments from the planning authority and the district collector on declaring the zone a conservation reserve. Once we get a response, we will finalise the plan. We are also checking whether any peripheral areas were handed over to developers so far,” said Tiwari.
According to the Union environment ministry, conservation reserves are protected areas that act as buffer zones or connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries or reserved and protected forests of India.
There are 88 conservation reserves in India across 12 states.
The Talawe wetlands are located near the Seawoods NRI housing complex and Training Ship Chanakya (TSC). The area has large stretches of abandoned paddy fields and scrub (200m wide 1.5 km long), which is separated from the seashore by a strip of mangroves (100-200m wide and 1.5km long). The east side is a residential area, while mangroves border the north and south.
The overall area suggested for protection by BNHS includes: a 783-hectare foraging area and a 46-hectare core area, which includes the 14-hectare TSC and 21.9-hectare NRI complex. The area has 58 bird species, 33 migratory species, eight near-threatened, two vulnerable, two species protected under schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and four under schedule IV, according to BNHS.
Cidco’s plans to develop a golf course have been opposed by environmentalists and residents. “Construction work for 17 buildings with 1,564 flats and 20 offices has already begun towards the landward side as we received a commencement certificate from the state. However, there is no clarity on the fate of the 18-hole golf course construction towards Seawoods, and we are not sure whether it is feasible,” said Pramod Patil, nodal officer (environment), Cidco. “It is our commitment to protect mangroves and wildlife, and we will assist the forest department in their requirements.”
Flamingo numbers in the area this year have been much more than of previous years, crossing the 8,500 mark in April 2020, said BNHS. “This is excellent news and should be pursued at the highest level. We congratulate the mangrove cell for taking this proposal forward,” said Deepak Apte, director, BNHS.
“There was already a concurrence from the state wildlife board in 2015 to declare the site as a part of the sanctuary, and the current flock of flamingos is testimony to the need to conserve this zone. More so, this will avoid large congregations near the runway of the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport,” he added.