Environmentalists may have managed to get the tag of Flamingo City for Navi Mumbai and succeeded in securing the Ramsar site status for the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS), but the euphoria appears to be a short-lived one as the wetlands here continue to be in danger.
'Environmental clearances obtained by violating laws'
“We have miles to go in terms of securing our biodiversity as the wetlands, mangroves and the hills face constant threats even from the government-owned agencies,” said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation. He added that many of the environmental clearances were obtained by violating the laws for major infrastructure projects.
“The Environment Impact Assessment report submitted by Navi Mumbai International Airport Limited (NMIAL) clearly acknowledged that the Navi Mumbai wetlands, which are the migratory bird destinations, will have to be protected as suggested by BNHS. But in reality, two of the wetlands named in the BNHS report – Belpada and Bhendkhal – have been destroyed and the ones at Panje, NRI and TS Chanakya are under constant threat.
Maintenance of wetlands a vital issue
On the one hand the Mangrove Foundation and Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation are keen to conserve the city’s wetlands, while on the other CIDCO is hell bent on burying the water bodies for real estate development, Kumar lamented.
The maintenance of wetlands is vital or else the thousands of birds may fly helter-skelter and even land in the airport area. This could pose dangers to the flights – a point which has been repeatedly stressed.
Despite the High orders, the Court appointed mangrove committee diktat, the process of transfer of mangroves to the Forest department for conservation has been terribly slow by agencies such as CIDCO, said Nandakumar Pawar, head of Sagar Shakti, the marine division of NGO Vanashakti. JNPT on its part has still kept close to 100 hectares of the sea plants with it, he said.
Complaints of mangroves destruction fall on deaf ears
Even in the Kharghar area, the series of complaints regarding the destruction of mangroves and wetlands have fallen on deaf ears, complained activist Jyoti Nadkarni. Recently, the forest department showed some guts to clear an illegal fish farm and restored tidal water flow to the wetland in the node, Nadkarni said.
The City’s first Ramsar site – the TCFS – is highly polluted due to the draining of industrial affluents, urban sewage and the flow of garbage from the Deonar dump. The quality of water is becoming increasingly unattractive for migratory birds and “we feel that there is a deliberate sabotage of the sanctuary by vested interests,” Pawar and Kumar said.
Navi Mumbai's air quality dips
Recently, the air quality of Navi Mumbai was noticed worse than in Delhi and Mumbai. Bhagwan Keshbhat, founder of Waatavaran Foundation, an NGO working on the environment says that a little progress has been seen to check air pollution but a lot needs to be done. “The NMMC planned to set up an air purification centre indicates that government agencies are accepting that there is air pollution. “We need to create awareness at a mass level. Unless common people start thinking of checking air pollution, it is not easy to wake government agencies,” said Keshbhat.
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