Navi Mumbai airport will be bird-hit prone, warn greens
Navi Mumbai: The massive burial of wetlands and destruction of mangroves will pose a grave bird-hit threat to the flights inbound and outbound of the Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) thus making the site a pilots’ nightmare, warn the environmentalists.
In a Holi special message to the Director General of Civil Aviation and Indian Pilots Guild, the environment groups have pointed out that wetlands such as Panje and Bhendkhal in Navi Mumbai’s Uran area, that are destination to millions of local and migratory birds, are being systematically destroyed. This could lead to the birds going helter-skelter and finding safe refuge in the high secure airport zone. Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has already written to former as well as current Chief Ministers but there has been no visible action to save the eco-sensitive sites, the environment focused NatConnect Foundation and Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, said in their letter to DGCA appealing to the regulator to take a serious note of the dangers.
The letter has also been marked to the civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Union and State Environment Ministers, apart from Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
“It is really sad that the government has been turning a blind eye to the grave danger despite the BNHS’ warnings,” said B N Kumar of NatConnect Foundation. “We have been shouting from the rooftops against the destruction of wetlands and mangroves under the guise of infrastructure development such as Navi Mumbai SEZ. Though the landfill has been stopped in some places, the destruction is rampant all across Uran,” Kumar said.
“We are not against development, but it has to be balanced with ecology and safety of human beings,” Kumar said.
NMIA is surrounded by several wetlands that are home to birds, some of which are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, per BNHS. A baseline report by the Society, commissioned by CIDCO for the airport also cautioned against the disappearance of the wetlands.
“We have already demanded the scrapping of NMSEZ which is anti-environment. The illegal landfill and blocking of free flow of tidal waters has already led to floods in 20 villages,” said Nandakumar Pawar of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan.
BNHS director Deepak Apte said the three major roosting sites in the vicinity of NMIA which provide safe refuge to the birds are being filled by NMSEZ. Though birds prefer wetlands, in the absence of the safe places, they could flock to high ground airport zone which could provide them safe refuge.
Environmentalists for long have been demanding Panje to be declared a bird sanctuary as it attracts 10,000 to 140,000 birds depending on the season. NatConnect has even requested the Union Environment Ministry to accord the status of a Samsar Wetland to Panje under the global accord to protect wetlands.
The Wetlands Grievance Reddressal Committee has also asked CIDCO and Raigad District Collector to maintain Panje as a wetland, allow free flow of water to the place to be included in the wetland atlas.
“Yet,” lamented Kumar: “CIDCO has included the vast 289 hectare wetland stretching from Panje to Dongari under its Development Plan for Dronagiri marking the area as Sectors 16 to 28.”
“We have also protested against non-inclusion of Panje in the draft CRZ map and called for redrawing the map,” Pawar said. The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) has already declared Panje and Karanja holding ponds as CRZ-1, ruling out any construction.
Following a series of complaints, the revenue authorities had filed FIRs against unnamed NMSEZ officials under the Environment Protection Act 1986 for destruction of mangroves and wetlands at Pagote and Bhendkhal. They named a dumper truck driver for carrying debris to Panje. “These are all mere eyewash and protect the high and mighty, at the cost of human lives and environment,” Pawar added.
“We sincerely hope that the DGCA and Pilots Guild will take a serious view of the future shocks and the flights with hundreds of passengers could face real danger of bird hits,” Kumar said.
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