Upcoming Navi Mumbai airport to clip Flamingo wings

Mumbai: After the migratory bird flamingos were affected by the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link Project (MTHL), the birds are now likely to get affected by the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) after land filling activities destroyed the wetlands located close to the proposed airport.

An Avifaunal study conducted in 2015 by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) revealed change in the land use pattern in ‘Belpada wetland’ due to development activities. This is a wetland area of 37 hectares located in the South-West direction of the proposed NMIA site. The main wetland is just 500 metres from the toll plaza.

The BNHS report stated that the area was surrounded by large land-filled area with grasses on three sides and Speedy Services Limited on the fourth side.

“Towards the village area, there are saltpans, mangroves and coastal mudflats which are suitable for foraging wader birds during low tide. It is also a breeding ground for residential grassland birds,” said the report.

Migratory birds such as flamingos and ducks were seen feeding on the Belpada wetland area which was destroyed during expansion activities of JNPT. Birds such as sandpipers, plovers and storks also fed on these wetlands.

The report also stated that, development activities like the expansion of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) had resulted in change in natural habitat and movement of birds. BHNS during their study witnessed several land-use changes in the study area of the 10 kilometer radius from the proposed site of NMIA.

Krishna Tiwari, Former Project Officer for City Forest, BNHS said, “The birds like flamingos and ducks would largely be affected since they are migratory birds. And birds like sandpipers and storks would be deprived of feeding ground due to destruction of the marshy land.”

The report said major land use changes were observed in 2010 when many wetlands were drained during the expansion work at JNPT near Nhava Sheva. The wetlands at Dastan Phata and Nhava Sheva were completely drained and filled during the expansion work. BNHS, during their study also witnessed land-filling activities at Belpada.

These land use changes by JNPT affected the birds in these sites. Post development activities, BNHS surveyors also witnessed habitat being completely transformed into grassland cum shrub land which resulted in the change in composition of bird species. The report stated that smaller birds like larks, pipits, stonechat, bush chat and prinias were seen visiting the areas after the change in habitat.

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