Until the Jawaharlal Nehru
Port Trust was established
here to decongest the
Mumbai Port, Uran was a
quaint little fishing village, known to
the avid birdwatchers of Mumbai as
a birding hotspot. And to those
interested in history, it was known
as the naval base of that fishermanturned-
master naval strategist of
Shivaji, Kanhoji Angre. The one who
held sway over every single fort on
the coast of Konkan, including a few
fabulous forts built in the middle of
the Arabian Sea.
Today, Uran is on the verge of a
sea-change. From a mere fishing village,
it's about to be converted into a
concrete jungle. Frenetic activity is
going on to make it an S.E.Z, a
sobriquet that ill fits it unless it
means Special Ecological Zone.
With the Sewri-Nhava Sheva Sea
Link looming ominously on the horizon,
the destruction of Uran is near
complete. In a matter of weeks, an
array of mountains between Panvel
and Uran has made way for monstrous
container yards. Their voracious
appetite unsatiated, gigantic
earth-moving equipment continue to
gnaw at the insides of the mountains.
And dumpers stand in endless
queues, waiting to transport the
debris, and dump it into the home of
over a 100 species of wetland birds.
A little while ago, as the tide rose
steadily, thousands of flamingos that
come to the mangroves between
Sewri and Mahul used to take off
into the skies forming gigantic pink
clouds, and land in the inviting wetlands
of Uran. Imagine the trauma
they must have gone through when
they looked down from the skies and
discovered to their dismay that
what was once their homeland has
been conquered by the greed of
man. There is a tiny bit of this exotic
wetland that still remains intact. A
handful of migratory birds forage
here for food, blissfully unaware of
the happenings around them.
But the dumpers in the distance filled with what was once a mountain are a grim reminder that this
too will disappear, leaving no trace
whatsoever of what was once a paradise
for birds. To be lost, forever.
Old fishing village
Along the white sands of the beaches
of Uran, you can still see all the
typical activities of a fishing village,
especially when a boat arrives with
its catch of seafood. You can also see
really large boats being built there,
in continuation of a tradition perfected
over 300 nautical years. After
that, you could drive further down
the coast to see history frozen in the
ruins of the Karanja Fort.
After exploring the remnants of
Uran, you could head off on a jungle
trail towards Karjat and continue
through the forests, till you reach
Neral in the foothills of Matheran.
The lotus pond with lotuses in full
bloom, and beautiful birds called
bronze-winged jacanas walking gingerly
on those delicate lotus leaves,
is a sight worth going miles to see.
And of course, the sights and sounds
of other forest birds, scrubland
earth for preys, make it a truly
When you get back to base camp in
Uran, recharged, take a second look
at the wanton destruction around
you, and pose this question to yourself:
What are we going to pass on to
our next generation, from whom we
have borrowed this fragile earth?
Habitats where the miracles of
nature surprise you every living
moment, or a vast wasteland of
memories turned brown?
Uran. See it this weekend. The
next one may be too late.
Gangadharan is a wildlife writer
and photographer. He heads the
recently-launched Junglelens, an
NGO working for the conservation of
nature and wildlife.