3rd Uran wetland buried despite Centre’s intervention

According to the environmentalists from the city, this is the third major wetland to have dried up in Uran after the contiguous intertidal flows at Jasai and Bhendkhal, NatConnect Foundation said.

Abhitash SinghUpdated: Sunday, May 15, 2022, 09:45 PM IST
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3rd Uran wetland buried despite Centre’s intervention | FPJ

The 22.7-hectare wetland at Savarkhar in ecologically sensitive Uran across Mumbai harbour has been turned into another dust bowl in a matter of two months, despite the two interventions of the Union Ministry of Environment department and the Maharashtra Chief Minister, environmentalists said.

According to the environmentalists from the city, this is the third major wetland to have dried up in Uran after the contiguous intertidal flows at Jasai and Bhendkhal, NatConnect Foundation said.

Following the NatConnect complaint in February, MOEFCC scientist Dr M Ramesh has asked the State Wetland Authority (SWA) to look into the complaint ‘on a top priority' basis and the CMO referred the issue to the Principal Environment Secretary Manisha Patankar-Mhaiskar.

“Yet, there has been no action from any state machinery and we lost another wetland through the Savarkhar wetland figured in the Uran’s 13-wetland list prepared by the Tahsildar,” NatConnect Foundation director B N Kumar lamented.

The Savarkhar wetland was equivalent to the size of more than two-and-a-half- Azad Maidans, he said.

JNPA (earlier JNPT) has been doing the landfill on the wetland since December last, Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, said.

“Following our complaints to the Raigad Collector, the revenue officials stopped the landfill for a day and even filed an FIR in which the port officials denied any knowledge of the people involved in dumping truckloads of soil and debris on the waterbody,” Pawar said. Thus, the FIR remained an eyewash as the wetland had been buried, he alleged.

JNPT has been claiming in its media statements that the 22.7-hectare Savarkhar waterbody is not a wetland, but it is sad that the biodiversity property has disappeared even before the State Swetland Authority checked the veracity as per the Centre’s suggestion, Kumar said. This also shows that the 'priority' and even 'top priority' messages from the Union Environment Department to the State officials have no value whatsoever, he regretted.

The Savarkhar wetland, just as the inter-tidal waster bodies at Jasai and Bhendkhal, were not only destinations for thousands of birds, but sources of survival for the local fishing community, Pawar pointed out. Bhendkhal wetland has been totally dried out by NMSEZ, notwithstanding an FIR by revenue officials against illegal debris dumping, Kumar said. Even the High Court appointed wetland committee orders to NMSEZ and CIDCO to restore the wetland had fallen on deaf ears, he pointed out.

CIDCO has allotted all three wetlands to project proponents and the state government city planner is the real culprit, Pawar said.

CIDCO has always been in a denial mode refusing to accept the existence of BNHS-listed wetlands existence.

Wetlands act like sponges by absorbing excess water and they are part of the natural flood control mechanism. The series of burials has been causing flooding in Uran which earlier did not have any history of inundation as revealed in the RTI responses from revenue officials, Kumar and Pawar said.

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