BNHS moots urban biodiversity plan for Mumbai region to prevent eco disasters

NatConnect kickstarts World Migratory Bird Week

BNHS director Dr Bivash Pandav said whatever we are left with has to be protected in the interest of the Region.

NAVI MUMBAI: Focusing on protecting mangroves, wetlands and migratory birds in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has mooted an Urban Biodiversity Plan for the area.

BNHS will take up the project, along with other environment-focused NGOs and groups, with the State government to make sure that “whatever we are left with is protected”, said the Society director Dr Bivash Pandav. Mumbai region is home to hundreds of thousands of migratory birds and they play a major role in conserving biodiversity, he pointed out.

BNHS, formed over 130 years ago, specializes in the conservation of nature and natural resources as well as organizing education activities and exploration of natural history. 

Taking part in an online discussion on Birds and Biodiversity organised by NatConnect Foundation, Dr Pandav firmly declared that “at no cost the biodiversity and bird destinations like Panje should be allowed to turn into concrete jungles”. The discussion was part of an awareness week-long campaign launched by NatConnect, ahead of the World Migratory Bird Day being observed on May 8.

Dr Pandav’s team, which has been officially assigned by local urban planner CIDCO to study the bird flight pattern, has been stopped from entering Panje by the security guards of NMSEZ which has been allotted the Panje Wetland. “Panje is a beautiful sanctuary area and it has to be protected,” he said.

NatConnect director B N Kumar expressed his disgust that CIDCO allocated the 289-hectare Panje wetland to NMSEZ and even earmarked the area as sectors 16 to 28 as part of the Dronagiri Development Plan, covering all mangrove and wetlands areas and without any Coastal regulatory Zone clearances.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) spread over 6,640 sq. km. consists of 9 Municipal Corporations viz. Greater Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan-Dombivali, Navi Mumbai, Ulhasnagar, Bhiwandi- Nizamapur, Vasai-Virar, Mira-Bhayandar and Panvel; and 9 Municipal Councils viz. Ambarnath, Kulgaon-Badalapur, Matheran, Karjat, Khopoli, Pen, Uran, Alibaug and Palghar, along with more than 1,000 villages in Thane, Raigad and Palghar Districts. MMRDA is responsible for the balanced development of the MMR.

Dr Pandav pointed out that the entire region is blessed with plenty of biodiversity which is very important from an environmental safety point. Wetlands are nature's flood control mechanism, apart from supporting a whole lot of life, he said and cautioned the urban planners that the future cities in the region will be in great danger if biodiversity is destroyed.

Taking part in the discussion, Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, said that official agencies such as CIDCO have only one point programme – that is to make money even at the cost of the environment. It is sad that the agency does not respect even the National Green Tribunal's order when it comes to saving Panje wetland.

Sunil Agarwal, activist of Save Navi Mumbai Environment, who has been campaigning to save Talawe wetlands as flamingo sanctuaries, expressed his shock that CIDCO blatantly lied about the existence of the wetland. CIDCO has leased out the wetlands to real estate developers and is hell bent on burying the area for creating a golf course.

Naresh Chandra Singh, a Kharghar-based activist, said his team has begun documenting the birds and wildlife in the area though CIDCO has turned a blind eye to the destruction of mangroves and wetlands in the node.

(Pic credit:  Dharmesh Barai, Environment Life. Flamingos at DPS Lake)