Thursday, February 02, 2023
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CM responds at 2 AM to save Panje wetland, but who cares?

Vested interests continue to bock tidal water flow

NatConnect Foundation

NMSZ blocks water flow, and people’s entry to Panje wetland, Govt officials remain mute spectators, lament green groups

MUMBAI: Irrespective of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s response to complaints of official inaction against mangrove and wetland destruction, vested interests continue to block to block water flow to the area.

For the uninitiated, Panje wetland assumes importance as is falls under CRZ 1 category and is part of the flood control mechanism to Dronagiri node being developed by the government owned CIDCO. Over 200,000 birds visit the wetland according to BNHS studies and the request for according the status of Bird Sanctuary to the place has been pending action from the government.

“The CM has responded at 2 AM on Friday to our complaint against repeated attacks on Panje wetland, which is home to two lakh birds, by vested interests,” said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation. The CMO asked Principal Secretary for Environment Manisha Patankar Mhaiskar to take up the issue.

NatConnect complained to the CM that all the five inlets to Panje wetland have been shut down apparently to render the area dry, in violation of the Environment Department’s order.

Responding to complaints against attempts to destroy Panje wetland, Environment Minister Aditya Thackeray asked for stopping construction there. Yet several security cabins have been built by the NMSEZ and water flow blocked.

Environment Director Narendra Toke, who also heads Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) pointed out that Panje falls under CRZ-1 and hence it has to be protected. The stoppage of water flow and construction are clear violations of the Environment Protection Act, Toke said in his letter to Raigad district collector.

Yet, the violations continued even on Saturday and pictures taken by local volunteers clearly showed the blockage. High tide water flowed over the artificial bunds and filled patches. Otherwise, the place is dry, Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, said.

Pawar pointed out that CIDCO leased out most of the wetland to NMSEZ though the planning body itself earmarked the area as Holding Pond No 1 as a flood control measure for Dronagiri. Moreover, CIDCO encompassed the stretch between Dongar and Panje villages as Sector16 to 28 of the Dronagiri Development Plan, he said.

Pawar, who too has been communicating with the Chief Minister against the officials lethargy in acting against violators, expressed the hope that the environmentalists will succeed in saving Panje.

BNHS which has been studying the pattern of bird at Panje has also made a strong recommendation for declaring the wetland as a bird sanctuary.