Where MMRDA found 17 bird species, BNHS found 150
The rapid environment impact assessment (EIA) report of the Mumbai trans-harbour link (MTHL) claims that there are only 17 bird species in the Sewri mudflat. In contrast, a 2005 study by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) listed around 150 species in the area.
Though the controversial 22-km MTHL project is likely to get a fresh green clearance, environmentalists said the EIA has misrepresented and omitted some key facts about the sensitive Sewri mudflat. In May, the National Green Tribunal had asked the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to get a fresh environment clearance from the Centre as the old clearance had expired.
The EIA states, “Out of the 17 species of birds spotted in the study area, four are migratory while the rest are known to be resident species”. However, BNHS experts said the EIA is highly dubious as the Sewri mudflat has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and a potential Ramsar site. A 2.1-km stretch of the bridge will pass through the Sewri mudflat.
“The BNHS study identified 150 bird species at the Sewri mudflat. The current alignment of the bridge is bound to disturb the eco-system of the birds,” said Asad Rahmani, director, BNHS.
While the EIA has only mentioned the black-headed ibis and lesser flamingos as near threatened, it does not mention the critically endangered oriental black vulture and long-billed vulture, the endangered spotted greenshank and the vulnerable greater spotted eagle and eastern imperial eagle.
A consortium of KPMG-Arup Consulting Engineers-Consulting Engineering Services (CES) prepared the EIA based on a study between October 2011 and December 2011, which is a peak season for migratory birds. “It is strange that the study finds as few as 17 species at the mudflat,” said Rahmani.
MMRDA officials said they would create special sound buffers to prevent flamingos from getting disturbed during the project’s construction phase. “Though there might be a minor disturbance, it won’t hamper the flamingo eco-system. We are expecting the Union environment ministry to respond to our presentation in 15 days,” said Vivek Ghanekar, superintendent engineer, MMRDA.
The EIA has also stated that as the pollution load on the mudflat is very high, “the eco-system is stressed and thus cannot be described as sensitive”.
“This claim is ironic. If an eco-system is stressed, it is surely sensitive and warrants attention,” Rahmani added.