NatConnect impact: Govt stops burial of Uran wetland

Collector halts massive landfill at Savarkhar wetland after complaints

NAVI MUMBAI: In a swift action, the State government officials have stopped the landfill on Savarkhar wetland in Uran, which is a destination for hundreds of migratory birds and one of the few places remaining for fishing, following complaints from environmentalists and local fishing community.

Raigad district collector Dr Mehandra Kalyankar has ordered a quick site inspection by Uran Tehsildar to probe into the complaints of a massive landfill on the nearly 15-hectare Savarkhar wetland in Uran.

Tehsildar Bhausaheb Andhare informed NatConnect Foundation that he has stopped the landfill with immediate effect, while the sub-divisional officer Rahul Mundake said the “people concerned” have been wared of a strict action if they restart the landfill.

Andhare claimed that the landfill was being done by local people for creating a playground.

Appreciating the quick action, NatConnect director B N Kumar said the landfill must be removed and the wetland restored. Looking at the pictures sent by the inspection officials, one can make out that it is a case of more than what meets the eye.

“The massive landfill cannot be the handiwork of just the local youth for a playground. The official himself admitted more than an acre has been reclaimed. But it is much, much more than that,” Kumar said.

Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, said the landfill has blocked the tidal water channel. JNPT is filling the water body that is remaining now, he said.

In fact, the Karal Gram Panchayat has in July appealed to Uran Tehsildar to look into the landfill by JNPT at Savarkhar that is causing intermittent floods in the village. The tidal water block is finding its way to low lying areas with the blocking of the flow, Pawar pointed out.

NatConnect Foundation and Shri Ekvira Sai Pratishtan have dashed an urgent SOS mail to the Chief Minister, the Environment department and the High Court appointed Mangrove and Wetland committees.

Dilip Koli of traditional fishing community Paaramparik Machimar Bachao Kruti Samiti, who said the situation was “serious”  as scores of truckloads of earth and debris are being poured on the 15- hectare water body, expressed the hope that the biodiversity place will soon be open for fishing and bird nesting and roosting.

JNPT has been doing landfill in the area for some time, but they have been in a denial mode, Pawar said. During an earlier landfill, an official inspection has been conducted on the environmentalists’ complaints. JNPT officials have told the joint revenue and forest team that the port has nothing to do with it, he recalled.

A wetland serves as an urban sponge, absorbing flood and tidal waters, hosts a variety of aquatic life and attracts migratory and local birds, Kumar pointed out. As per the Supreme Court ruling, waterbodies above 2.5 hectares are to be protected.“In view of these facts, the Savarkhar wetland has to be protected,” Kumar said

BNHS has repeatedly called for preserving the wetlands of the Uran area to prevent birds from filling up the skies in search of landing and thus posing threat to flights at the upcoming Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA).