Centre Upset With Maha Silence On MMR Wetland Burial

MOEFCC sets fresh 15-day deadline for action taken report as greens’ scream

No authority seems to be serious about the bird hit threats to flight at the NMIAL despite our complaints, NatConnect regretted

MUMBAI: Upset with the lack of action from the State authorities, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) has set a fresh 15-day deadline to the Maharashtra Environment department to act on the series of complaints from green groups against destruction of wetlands in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).

Taking a serious note lack of response from the State environment department and the wetland authority despite five e-mails from the Centre, Dr. E. Arockia Lenin, director and Scientist-C, from the MOEFCC has sent a fresh missive to State Environment Principal Secretary Manisha Patankar-Mhaiskar called for a time bound action and sending an Action Taken Report.

NatConnect Foundation director B N Kumar, who has been periodically complaining, received a copy of the letter to the state officials along with a 40-page annexure of the complaints and forward mails. Significantly, Dr Lenin’s letter has the approval of the Competent Authority at MOEFCC.

Kumar has repeatedly pointed out to the MOEFCC that the Navi Mumbai International Airport Limited (NMIAL) has obtained Environmental Clearance based on a false claim that CIDCO was taking adequate steps to protect the wetlands as suggested by the BNHS. Far from ensuring protecting the wetlands, CIDCO has been ensuring that the water bodies are buried by ignoring even the High Court appointed committee’s directives, he said.

BNHS has repeatedly said in its studies that the wetlands at – Belpada, Bhendkhal, Panje, NRI, TS Chanakya and DPS Lake – must be protected as thousands of migratory birds land here.

The Environment Impact Assessment submitted by NMIAL to MOEFCC states: “Maintaining the current state of this landscape especially wetlands and Protected Areas is essential for the air safety of the upcoming Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA). Any changes in the current state of these areas will result in more erratic movement of the birds in the landscape between feeding and roosting sites, which may jeopardise the air safety of NMIA.”

No authority seems to be serious about the bird hit threats to flight at the NMIAL despite our complaints. What is more, the ongoing BNHS study is commissioned by CIDCO itself.

The inter-tidal water flow to Panje wetland is being intermittently blocked, in gross violation of the National Green Tribunal’s order, said Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan. CIDCO illegally leased out the 289-hectare wetland to NMSEZ which continues to occupy the area, he said.

Another wetland Savarkhar  was buried by JNPA though the water body figures on the Uran Tahsildar’s list of wetlands. JNPA is doing landfill on Belpada wetland to create a parking lot, he said.

Kharghar-based activists Nareshchandra Singh, Jyoti Nadkarni and Seema Tonk have drawn the MOEFCC attention to the debris dumping on long stretches of wetlands in the node impacting the rich  biodiversity. They also pointed out cases of large scale, organised shrimp farming by blocking the tidal water flow.

As regards the NRI wetlands, Sunil Agrawal of Save Navi Mumbai Environment has raised several complaints against the construction permitted by CIDCO on CRZ and salt pan area, on the edge of the waterbody. Debris and material from the massive construction is being dumped close to the wetland with no proper fencing, he pointed out.

Dr Lenin in his letter to the State Environment Principal Secretary that the MOEFCC has been receiving grievances on pollution and construction activities on wetlands. “However, no response has been received by this ministry from the concerned authorities till date,” he said and called for a time bound action within the next 15 days.