But Forest Dept caution notice disappears within hours of placing them
MUMBAI: Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray asked Foerst Secretary Venugopal Reddy to look into the fire cracker scare that threatened protected birds at Panje wetland in Uran across Mumbai harbour as environmentalists have called for a thorough investigation by the Crime Branch CID into the horrific incident.
The wetland is under the control of now de-notified Navi Mumbai SEZ which has already been served notice by the Forest Department. A public notice cautioning public against harming the protected birds has been put up at the site. The official notice also warned that that the action as per the law will be taken against those who harm the birds at this place which are protected under the Wildlife Act 1972.
Breaking! Forest Banners Disappear!!
Within hours of the Forest Department putting up the notice, miscreants (read Reliance security) have removed the banners. No one is allowed to enter the area and the security has been preventing wildlife lovers, photographers, media, local fishing community and even the BNHS research team. How did anyone enter now to remove the banners? Asked NatConnect Foundation director B N Kumar.
“While we appreciate the prompt action by the Forest Department, it is essential to go beyond to get to the bottom of the conspiracy to kill the wetland by hook or crook,” said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation in his letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. “We are happy that the CM has swiftly acted and hopeful of equally quick action to conserve the wetland,” Kumar said.
Panje, destination for over 150,000 migratory and local birds, has been repeatedly under attack as all the five water inlets have been choked rendering the wetland totally dry. With the monsoon rains, some water accumulated here attracting hundreds of birds, Kumar said.
Assistant Conservator of Forest Sanjay Waghmode confirmed that preliminary investigation is going on into the fire cracker incident. He has already visited the spot with his team. “I am assuring you nobody shall be protected by the Forest department,” he said in exchange of communication by NatConnect Foundation.
Two men with identity cards hanging around their necks with lanyards could be seen in a video that was shot while they set crackers on fire and with the loud noise hundreds of birds could be seen flying helter-skelter.
Later, the two men could be seen with couple of men in uniform, Kumar pointed out and requested the investigators to zoom in the photographs and ascertain what they were doing at the spot.
Regional Forest Officer Shashank Kadam confirmed that notice was sent to NMSEZ for this illegal act. Action will be taken as per the WildLife Protection Act, he said.
Earlier, Deputy Conservator of Forests Neenu Somraj wrote to Raigad district collector and CIDCO Managing Director drawing their attention to a complaint by photographer Aishwarya Sridhar about scaring the protected birds. Somraj, also the member secretary of the High Court appointed Wetland Redressal Committee, reminded the authorities that the birds visiting the site are protected under the Wildlife Act and that the officials must ensure that the birds are not harmed.
Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, recalled that CIDCO leased out Panje wetland to NMSEZ which in turn built a massive wall, illegally though, around the place. NMSEZ also deployed security men who prevent wildlife photographers and local fishing community.
Despite the Environment Department’s order to demolish the illegal security cabins, the structure and the personnel are still there intact, Pawar said and expressed his angst at this open defiance of the government orders.
Even the NGT order to comply with the Environment Department directive is yet to complied with, Pawar regretted.
CIDCO, which is 26% stakeholder in NMSEZ, has also drawn a draft development plan (DP) incorporating Panje wetland as part of the Dronagiri township earmarking the area as Sector-16 to 28, Kumar pointed out.
“This clearly shows CIDCO is hand in gloves with NMSEZ and they all want to finish the biodiversity and crush environmental interests and convert the beautiful place into a mindless concrete jungle,” Pawar said and warned that this is bound to spell doom for Uran.