@ Panje wetland, HC ‘green’ petitioner gets death threat

Top revenue official stopped from doing work

CIDCO leased out the area to Navi Mumbai SEZ for turning into concrete jungle which the environmentalists have opposed.

NAVI MUMBAI, Jan 1 (The CONNECT) - In a severe blow to the efforts to save the 289-hectare Panje Wetland in Uran across Mumbai harbour, a top revenue official was abused and physically stopped from surveying the area and an environmentalist was threatened with dire consequences if they continued their work.

The revenue official, Uran taluka Tahsildar Bhausaheb Andhare, filed a First Information Report with the Nhava-Sheva police naming two people from Panje village – Dharmedra Govind Patil and Hemant Prakash Patil – who obstructed him repeatedly.

Andhare, along with environmentalists Debi Goenka and Nandakumar Pawar, had gone to Panje wetland to check if the State Government and the subsequent NGT orders for clearing the blocks at tidal water inlets were removed properly or not. CIDCO environment officer Pramod Patil joined them later.

“This is a sad commentary on the system as the government, which is supposed to protect the environment and biodiversity as per its policy, remains a mute spectator to the destruction and threats to those who raise their voice,” said Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan who received death threats for trying to save Panje wetland.

The CM in his public address has vowed to protect the environment and called for a maintaining balance between environment and development. What is happening in Uran is in total contrast to this policy, the environmentalists said and said it is high time that the government did walk-the-talk, said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation in his mail to the CM.

For a long, certain people have been blocking tidal water flow to Panje wetland to render it dry to suit vested interests. Despite the government orders to clear the blocks, no action was taken and Pawar moved the NGT.

The wetland not only attracts thousands of migratory birds but is supposed to be part of the flood control mechanism for Dronagiri node. City planner CIDCO, however, leased out the area to Navi Mumbai SEZ for turning into concrete jungle which the environmentalists have opposed.

The mounting threats must be viewed in this context, Pawar said and said it is for the government to decide if it wants to save the environment or not.

In a pre-planned operation, groups of Panje villagers led by Sarpanch’s husband Hareshwar Bhoir gheraoed the officials and argued that they would continue to block the free flow of tidal water to create a cricket ground.

The villagers were also upset that there was no official action on their series of applications for the playground. Dharmendra and Hemant repeatedly abused the officials and environmentalists in filthiest language. Dharmendra also threatened that he would kill Pawar if he continued with his work and posted in the social media any photographs of Panje wetland.

This is a serious situation that warrants the government’s immediate attention, said NatConnect Foundation Director B N Kumar.

This is the last chance to save the massive biodiversity property and Uran and It is for the government to implement its own decision taken exactly six years ago to conserve Panje along with two other wetlands at Talawe and Mahul-Sewree, Kumar said. Then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had himself announced the State Wildlife Board decision to declare the three places as bird sanctuaries.

Environmentalists were surprised that the NMSEZ security, which shooed away media persons, BNHS researchers, nature photographers and the fishing community, have allowed the cricket ground to be created by an illegal landfill. “This clearly shows the hands playing behind the attempts to destroy the wetland,” Pawar pointed out.

Last week, a local avid birder Parag Gharat was also threatened with death in the presence of environmentalist Debi Goenka.

Several Uran villages are already facing unseasonal floods to the reckless landfill of wetlands. It will be sad for the people or Uran if we fail to realise this and allow environmental destruction by just remaining mute spectators, Kumar said.