Crackers scare birds @Panje Wetland, Mangrove Cell steps in

Asks Raigad Collector, CIDCO to protect birds and wetland

Maharashtra Mangrove cell asks CIDCO, Raigad Collector to ensure Panje wetland is protected and migratory birds are not harmed.

MUMBAI: Taking a serious note of using firecrackers to chase away hundreds of birds from the Panje Wetland in Uran across Mumbai harbour, the Maharashtra Mangrove Cell has asked Raigad district collector and local planner CIDCO to ensure that such incidents do not recur.

The letter (please check PDF) signed by Mangrove Cell Member Secretary Neenu Somraj also called upon the two government agencies to ensure that the wetland is protected as it represents biodiversity. Panje Wetland is ecologically significant since it is a destination for many migratory birds, Somraj, who is also the member-secretary of the High Court-appointed Wetland Grievance Reddressal Committee, said.

Acting on a complaint filed by nature film maker Aishwarya Sridhar, the Somraj reminded CIDCO and the Collector that the Bombay Natural History Society and many other environmental organisations have called for conserving the wetland. The authorities must, therefore ensure that the wetland is not damaged and the migratory birds are not harmed in any manner, Somraj said.

This is a welcome development as the mangrove cell takes note of the need to conserve the wetland and we hope that the State government will take steps to save the biodiversity for which we have been campaigning, said NatConnect Foundation Director B N Kumar.

Aishwarya and Kumar have earlier complained to the Chief Minister against attempts by vested interests to sabotage the wetland and scare away the birds by setting afire noisy crackers. These elements and their masterminds are apparently keen to kill the wetland and convert it into a barren land and then convert it into a concrete jungle, Kumar said.

Panje, a traditional destination for over 150,000 migratory and local birds, has been the eye of the storm after it has been illegally allotted to the now-de-notified NMSEZ which has blocked tidal water flow to the wetland apparently to render it dry, NatConnect Foundation told Thackeray.

Now the most heinous of the crimes was committed as a group of men burnt fire crackers and with the noise the birds got disturbed and flew helter-skelter, NatConnect Foundation director B N Kumar said. A bird watcher captured the incident on video camera and the clip sent to the CM.

“We requested the Chief Minister to ensure strongest punishment is meted out to the criminals and take action against their masters conspiring to kill the wetland,” Kumar said.

The environmentalist also called for scrapping the CIDCO deal with NMSEZ and rescuing the wetland.

He requested the government to pull up the local administration which is very lax and which is why so many environmental violations are taking place all across Uran in particular. FIRs have been filed against unidentified NMSEZ officials for killing mangroves and burying wetlands with little action after that.

Film maker Aishwarya Sridhar, who was stopped several tikes from taking pictures of the birds, also wrote to the Chief Minister.

NMSEZ does not care for any rule or law and threw the MCZMA/Environment director Shri Narendra Toke’s order to the winds, Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, said.

NMSEZ also continues to block free flow of tidal water to the wetland and despite the government and NGT orders, the choke points have not been cleared nor the illegal security cabins removed, he said.

The wetland has some rain water  and with the beginning of the early winter migration has thousands birds, including those on the IUCN Red List such as the Black and Bar tailed Godwit, have started landing at Panje. They were “horribly scared away” by these hooligans. The security guards at the Panje wetlands have not only threatened tourists/photographers/researchers but now are resorting to such barbaric acts to prevent birds from landing on the wetland, Aishwarya said.

This is a thought-out plan by vested interests to ensure that the Panje wetlands are turned into a wasteland so that landfill can start. 

“Thousands of birds including Golden Plovers, Godwits, Whimbrels and Sandpipers were scared by these firecrackers and their loud noises, burnt intentionally so that the birds never return to the wetland,” she regretted.

Despite the Environment Minister Shri Aditya Thackeray ordering no construction at the wetland, NMSEZ has put up security cabins and the guards have been preventing local fishing community and bird watchers from entering the place, Kumar said.

The guards even prevented BNHS team which went to study the area as part of an assignment from CIDCO. The guards rudely fought with media persons, he said recalled that the Mangrove Foundation and BNHS are keen to conserve and protect the wetland but CIDCO and NMSEZ are vehemently opposing.

We are not opposed to development, Kumar said and asked: but should it happen at the cost of the environment?