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Security guards at Uran wetlands irk activists, fisherfolk

Cidco said the move is aimed at avoiding flooding and fishing activities in the area

mumbai Updated: Jul 01, 2019 00:09 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Uran wetlands,City Industrial Development Corporation Ltd (Cidco),Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR)
Cabins have been installed near Uran wetlands for the security guards. (HT Photo)

The City Industrial Development Corporation Ltd (Cidco) has deployed 30 private security guards across eight wetland areas in Uran to prevent citizens from accessing them.

Pramod Patil, nodal officer (environment), Cidco, said the move is aimed at avoiding flooding and fishing activities in the area. Environmentalists, however, were miffed with the move as the wetland areas in Dronagiri, especially Panje, is a major bird-watching site in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). Some of them said the decision was taken to further corporate motives.

The guards have ben deployed across eight locations in Uran, Navi Mumbai; six across Dronagiri node including Panje, Navghar, Mulekhand, Karanje, Bhendkhal and Pagote-Kunde; and two locations at Ulwe and Kalamboli.

“Private security guards at Dronagiri node have been appointed for the next one year while those at Ulwe and Kalamboli have been directed to take charge for the next four months,” said Patil.

Deepak Apte, director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), a pan-India wildlife research organisation, said the security guards on Friday stopped BNHS to carry out its bird-monitoring survey in the area.

“BNHS is deeply concerned about developments in Uran, especially Panje wetland. All these areas fall under the special economic zone (SEZ). Any destruction will compromise air safety of Navi Mumbai International Airport,” he said.

“Banning research, photography and birding is a forerunner to prevent images of illegal landfilling that is soon to happen at Uran,” said Aishwarya Sridhar, environmentalist.

Recurring cases of mangrove destruction (9,500 trees) and reclamation of wetlands has been reported over the past year here. However, there has been no concrete action from the state so far.

“For a long time, Panje Wetland has been under attack. Cidco had stopped the free flow of tidal water resulting in drying of the area. Now they have stopped citizens’ access under the guise of flood control mechanism. Will the area not flood when real estate property will come up on these sites,” said BN Kumar, environmentalist, The Nature Connect.

Fisherman Dilip Koli, activist from the Paaramparik Machhimar Bachao Kruti Samiti, said, “The Uran wetlands serve as a fish breeding ground on which the fishing community survives. Now with this ban, we are left with nothing.”

Neenu Somraj, member secretary, Bombay high court-appointed state mangroves committee, said, “We have not received any complaint so far about this issue. However, the Raigad district administration has been given directions to ensure that reclamation activities are stopped at all wetlands.”

Another member Stalin D said, “Cidco has restricted human access to officially allow private companies to completely reclaim and destroy these wetlands. Cidco needs to vacate these lands immediately and hand it over to the environment and forest department.”

Sunjoy Monga, naturalist writer and ornithologist, said, “It is a way to strangulate the last of our surviving wetland wonders by ensuring that those visiting them are denied entry. The forest department should take control over these areas at the earliest.”

First Published: Jul 01, 2019 00:07 IST