Mumbai: Why Flamingos may disappear from Sewri mudflats

Sep 28, 2017, 08:35 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

MMRDA gets nod to carry out night-time work for trans-harbour link during migratory season; experts say the sensitive flamingos will disappear from Sewri

This October, bird-watchers may no longer get to see a sea of pink at Sewri's Flamingo Point. The central government has given permission to the city authorities to carry out construction of the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) during nights and through the flamingo season between October and March. Experts fear that the noise will, however, drive the birds away.

Flamingos at the Sewri mudflats. File pic
Flamingos at the Sewri mudflats. File pic

Every year, thousands of people flock to the Sewri mudflats to spot the migratory flamingos. To shield these pink birds and other wildlife, the Sewri mangroves were declared a protected ecology. This also meant that the Mumbai Metropolitan regional Development Authority (MMRDA) was bound by severe restrictions for the MTHL project - construction was not allowed post 10 pm, and not at all during the flamingo season.

Also read - Thane: Forest department sees pink over flamingo deaths

In July, MMRDA approached the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), seeking a relaxation of these conditions. They explained that they only had six months for the construction, and three of those months were in the monsoon, which would slow down work.

Additional Metropolitan commissioner Sanjay Khandare told mid-day, "We have received permission from MoEF to carry out construction activity during nights. All the precautions are being taken to make sure that no inconvenience is caused to the flamingos. We will not carry out any blasting activity that will cause disturbance to the birds."

Also read: Injured flamingo rescued by fisherman at Nallasopara

Experts concerned
Despite the MMRDA's assurances, wildlife experts and ornithologists fear that the construction activity will ruin the flamingos' habitat as well as affect mating and social activities. Adesh Shivkar, bird expert, said, "If construction goes on for 24 hours, it will surely have a negative impact on the flamingos and other waders at the Sewri mudflats. The authorities should at least halt work during low tide, so these birds can feed."

Environmentalist Stalin D, from the NGO Vanashakti, was harsher in his criticism: "The MoEF has lost the purpose of its existence. The mandate of the MoEF is to protect wildlife and habitats, not ruin it. This government has gone overboard with its lust for construction. The decision to work during the night is illegal, and it will cause a lot of problems to the birds."

'Not much impact'
On the other hand, environmentalist Anand Pendharkar (from the NGO SPROUTS) was of the opinion that the construction won't have much impact.

Also read: Mumbai's wait continues! Flamingo flight aborted for now at Thane Creek Sanctuary

"I led a study with a team of three ornithologists and our findings show that the flamingo habitat is very large and expanding annually. Birds will fly away from the construction locations, but we have seen in other areas that they have come back once noise is gone. We were worried about the noise, but during our four-month study, we saw how huge the habitat is. Also, Sewri isn't the most bird-rich place, contrary to popular belief," he said.

Also read: Spot flamingos at Sewri Mudflats this weekend

Pink to Code Red
Bird expert and wildlife photographer Saurabh Sawant pointed out what could go wrong:
>> Artificial lighting can confuse the birds that use the moon and stars to find their way to Sewri
>> There's a risk of collision with the lighting towers
>> Silt deposited can affect birds' feeding area in mudflats


Also view - In pictures: Flamingo-Spotting At Mumbai's Sewri Jetty
In pictures: Flamingo-Spotting At Mumbai's Sewri Jetty

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