Mumbai to have a flamingo sanctuary

NGO had sought forest department's intervention to save bird habitat

 
By Ashwin Aghor
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

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Alarmed by increasing pollution and habitat destruction along Thane Creek in north-eastern Mumbai, which threatens several birds including flamingos, the state forest department has decided to declare the area as a Flamingo sanctuary. The notification to this effect will be issued soon, say sources in the Maharashtra forest department.

Thane Creek is home to flamingos as well as other migratory and residential bird species. Mumbai-based non-profit Vanashakti had approached the state forest department, seeking its intervention to protect the birds and the mudflats along the Thane Creek.

“The mangrove forest along the creek in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane witness the arrival of a variety of migratory birds like Lesser Flamingo, Greater Flamingo, Pied Avocet, Painted Stork and Spot-billed Duck. It has been observed that the number of the birds have reduced drastically in the recent past. There is an urgent need to protect the habitat,” says Kavita Mallya, project officer with Vanashakti.

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Major habitat threats: pollution, SEZ, aquaculture

The wetlands at Uran in Navi Mumbai used to be the most preferred destination of the migratory birds. “But the birds have lost ground due to reclamation for the proposed SEZ in the area. Now the birds have only Thane creek and Sewree Bay to bank on,” Mallya adds.  The birds are found along the coastline in Vashi, Vikhroli, Bhandup and Airoli. Commercial aquaculture also threatens the birds. “The state forest department with help from local community removed encroachments from the area in the past. But mangrove destruction has begun again due to neglect,” says Nandkumar Patil, a local fisherman from Bhandup. The large-scale mangrove destruction and illegal dumping in the creek has adversely affected the birds in the area, he adds.

A delegation of Vanashakti, had called on the principal secretary of forests with Maharashtra government, of Maharashtra Praveensingh Pardeshi, demanding immediate action to save the habitat and protect the birds. “We sought help from the state forest department to maintain these areas as important bird habitat. We will take up the project and raise funds for fencing the area. This will also generate source of income for local communities as people will be roped in to patrol and protect the site. We will also rope in other NGOs in the project,” says D Stalin, director of projects with Vanashakti.

Sources in the forest department say the proposal has been accepted and further action will be taken soon. “The state forest department will soon create the flamingo sanctuary along the Thane creek, the eastern coast of the city. This will help in protecting the habitat as well as migratory and resident birds,” says a senior forest department official while adding, “Flamingo Sanctuary can be the best solution to prevent habitat destruction and poaching.”

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