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Mangroves along Thane creek under threat from SEZ project

An upcoming Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project in Thane is threatening a large chunk of wetland along the Thane Creek -- designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BNHS and BirdLife International (UK).

Researchers from BNHS and Thane-based Paryavaran Dakshata Manch (PDM), who recently visited the area for a bird survey, as per orders from the National Green Tribunal, Western Zone Bench, Pune, were prevented from entering the cordoned off premises.

It should be noted that this is among few remaining pockets of wetlands, creeks and mangroves in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, which are home to a large number of threatened bird species.

An area of about 20 hectares along the Thane Creek near Mithbunder Road, Kopri, is being reclaimed for an upcoming SEZ project of Sun-stream City Pvt Ltd. According to a press release sent by BNHS, the dumping for the project is affecting vital inter-tidal habitats such as mangroves and salt pans. This is in addition to existing threats such as garbage dumping and other human encroachments.

In response to a petition filed by Paryavaran Dakshata Manch, the National Green Tribunal, Western Zone Bench, Pune had ordered an expert bird survey of the affected area. PDM had approached BNHS to conduct the survey. But despite the court order, which also directs the company to facilitate such a survey without any hindrance, the researchers who visited the site a couple of days ago, were prevented entry into the cordoned off area.

Dr Raju Kasambe, senior scientist and a bird expert with BNHS commented, "This is a contempt of court order as the team of scientists was denied entry into the affected area."

Also present for the survey were Dr Untwale, Mangrove Society of India, (formerly working with National Institute of Oceanography) and Dr Sanjay Joshi, Professor – Environmental Science – PG of K. J. Somaiya College, Mumbai."

Thane Creek – a bird haven

Thane Creek is home to thousands of bird species, resident and migratory. A designated Important Bird Area (IBA), it is also recommended by BNHS as a potential Ramsar site. Over 10,000 Lesser and Greater Flamingo are sighted here annually.

Globally threatened species such as Black-headed Ibis, Painted Stork, Greater Spotted Eagle, Eurasian Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit have been reported from the area by BNHS.

Since the past three years V A Walawalkar, Founder, PDM and other bird experts have been studying the varied biodiversity of the area. He has reported sightings of Watercock, Spotted Crake and Jack Snipe.

Rescue and release of birds in their natural habitat is also being conducted, apart from creating awareness among the locals.

A survey conducted by local birdwatchers Avinash Bhagat and Prof Clara Correia recorded 194 bird species in the Thane Creek region. BNHS strongly recommends that the Thane Creek should be conserved and any form of encroachment and habitat destruction in this vital habitat should be immediately stopped.

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