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Mumbai may soon be the world’s 1st city to have Ramsar site

Mangrove Parks to come up at Gorai & Dahisar

NatConnect Foundation

State Mangrove Foundation has proposed to accord Ramsar Wetland status to the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary

MUMBAI, July 26 (The CONNECT) - In an International Mangrove Conservation Day gift, the State Mangrove Foundation has proposed to accord Ramsar Wetland status to the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFC) and finalized mangrove parks at Gorai and Dahisar.

The proposal for the first Ramsar Wetland status has already been submitted to the Environment Ministry, said Virendra Tiwari, executive director of Mangrove Foundation, participating in a “Townhall on Mangroves and Wetlands” organsied by non-profit Waatavaran Foundation. This proposal requires the State Wetland Authority clearance, while the two mangrove parks will be funded under the district plan.

TCFC, spread across 1,690.5 hectares, will be the first Ramsar Wetland in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) when the proposal is cleared. According to a BNHS report, the Thane creek, which comprises 12 true mangrove species and 39 associate mangrove species, ranks amongst the most important bird habitats in the region and is an interesting dividing line between the Mumbai and Mumbai suburbs, Thane and the city of Navi Mumbai. A total of around 167 species of birds, 45 species of fishes, 59 species of butterflies and 67 species of Insects species have been recorded here, BNHS repost on TCFS Management says.

Tiwari said of the 19,000 hectares of mangroves on government lands, nearly14,000 hectares has already been taken notified as reserve forest. In MMR alone, 8,000 hectares of mangroves are yet to handed over to the Forest Department and the process is on.

NatConnect Foundation welcomed the move and said its suggestion to conserve Panje wetland as a Ramsar property has been pending with the State Environment department. “We have written to the Chief Minister to expeditiously decide on the issue,” NatConnect Director B N Kumar said.

Speaking at the Townhall earlier, Manisha Patankar Mhaiskar, Principal Secretary of Environment, said admitted that many urban development officials have not recognized the significance of wetlands and mangroves. She, therefore, proposed a workshop with all district level officials to ‘sensitise’ them to identify the wetlands as per the Centre’s notification. A task force would later be set up on this, she said.

She referred to the “development divide”, and said development and environment have to work together.

Emphasising the need for “zero tolerance towards mangrove destruction”, she said” we need to protect the mangroves that protect the coastal areas”.

The government, CIDCO in particular, has come under sharp attack for its failure to protect mangroves and wetlands from encroachers.

Advocate Gayatri Singh the government and its agencies are not recognizing the very definition of wetlands as per the Ramsar Convention. Large numbers of wetlands have been destroyed despite the various court orders and the officials have given false statements to courts that no wetlands existed in several districts.

Gayatri Singh called for restoring all wetlands that have been destroyed and taking action against officials for not protecting the properties.

Environmentalist Debi Goenka described CIDCO as the “worst agency” as far as mangrove protection is concerned and the implementation of the Court orders is falling apart. He also attacked the practice of compensatory afforestation anywhere in lieu of mangrove destruction. The biggest mistake is to plant mangroves across mudflats, he said and called for a total  moratorium on compensatory afforestation by all agencies till the proper methodology is worked out.

Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, criticized CIDCO for destroying “giant sponges” called wetlands in Uran Taluka under the guise of development and thus causing flooding of villages which did not have any history of inundation over the past decade and half.

Stalin D, director of Vanashakti, lamented that the not a single wetland has been restored despite the High Court appointed wetland committee orders on over 100 complaints. CIDCO, he said, not destroys but encourages destruction of wetlands.

Stalin called for appointment district level competent officers with scientific knowledge to manage wetlands and mangroves.