Civic body keen to save Navi Mumbai flamingo wetlands

Maha CM, Civic body respond to NatConnect plea

City planner CIDCO planned a golf course by burying the 35-hectare wetlands.

NAVI MUMBAI: In a significant development, Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) has requested CIDCO (City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra) to handover the NRI and TS Chanakya wetlands and the Lotus Lake in Nerul to the civic body for maintenance.

NMMC City Engineer Sanjay Desai said the municipal corporation is keen to maintain the identity of ‘Flamingo City’ for Navi Mumbai which attracts the largest number of the pink winged birds. NMMC has requested the Centre to permit the Flamingo City tag for the Swachh Bharat Survey-2022, he said.

The civic body will soon display sign boards at key points with the greetings “Welcome to Flamingo City”.

Environmentalists have welcomed the NMMC move and said CIDCO must immediately accept the request instead of burying the 35-hectare NRI and TSC wetlands for a golf course.

NatConnect Foundation Director B N Kumar, who has taken the initiative to get the Flamingo City tag for Navi Mumbai and written to Chief Minister and NMMC to conserve the wetlands, said “we are happy to see the NMMC move.” “In fact, we have suggested to NMMC Commissioner Abhijit Bangar to take over the wetlands and maintain them in association with the Mangrove Foundation which is also keen to conserve the wetlands,” he said. Bangar has asked Desai to take it forward.

BNHS has in fact suggested to conserve these wetlands as part of its Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS) Satellite plan as the birds take refuge here during high tides. This is in addition to the flamingos the wetlands attract.

In a related development, the Union Environment Department has reminded its Maharashtra counterpart to respond the environmentalists’ complaints against the attempts to destroy the two wetlands for paving way for the golf course.

Meanwhile, NMMC has also started painting the city literally pink with Flamingos to instill a sense of pride among the people. NatConnect has requested the civic body to go beyond the symbolic paintings and pursue the mission of taking over the wetlands under its control.

NatConnect has pointed out to the CM that CIDCO, while handing over properties to NMMC that was formed 30 years ago, has handed over 24 lakes and not the NRI & TSC wetlands. Instead, the city planner has leased out the area for developing a golf course against which activist Sunil Agrawal and team had challenged in the Bombay High Court. The Court had struck down the golf course against which CIDCO and the developer Mistry Construction move the Supreme Court.

Considering that CIDCO is owned by the State Government, Kumar requested the CM to ask the planning agency to withdraw the Supreme Court petition. The CM asked the Urban Development department to look into this.

“It is sad that CIDCO does not recognize the fact that the two waterbodies figure in the National Wetland Inventory Assessment done by the Space Application Centre though the Forest department itself had submitted this point to the Bombay High Court,” Kumar said.

Sunil Agrawal said it is high time that the wetlands are protected as the developer had fraudulently obtained RERA clearance. CIDCO and the builder seem to be n a hurry to develop the area despite the fact that the issue is pending Supreme Court hearing.

“All hopes of saving the biodiversity will be lost if the government delays any more to save the wetlands,” he said.

Alert citizens have been complaining about the frequent attempt to sabotage the wetland by chasing away the birds and blocking tidal water flow, Agrawal said. The stagnant water is not conducive for the flamingos which obviously the vested interests know, he remarked.

Kumar pointed out that NMMC commissioner also happens to be on the High Court appointed Mangrove and Wetlands Committees and he should strongly argue for protecting the biodiversity in his jurisdiction.

NatConnect has also written to the wetland committee to facilitate the process of handing over the two wetlands to NMMC and conserve them.