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Mumbai: Officials alarmed, locals horrified by flamingo crash

Updated on: 22 May,2024 06:53 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Ranjeet Jadhav |

As officials begin probe into deadly flight-flamingo clash, residents recall eerie night

Mumbai: Officials alarmed, locals horrified by flamingo crash

The dead flamingos after crashing down on several houses

While all of Mumbai was focused on the elections on Monday, 39 flamingos died in Lakshmi Nagar, Ghatkopar. The birds reportedly died after colliding with an aircraft. Environmentalists, shocked by a large number of flamingo deaths following the collision with an Emirates plane over Mumbai on Monday night, criticised urban planners for ignoring warnings about such incidents.

As soon as locals informed us about the incident, we formed three teams and informed the forest officials about the incident. At Least 39 flamingos were found dead in the Laxmi Nagar area and we suspect that the flock of flamingos had a mid-air collision with a flight. The forest officials will conduct a post-mortem on the dead flamingos,” said Pantnagar police station’s senior PI Rajesh Kevle.

Carcasses of the flamingos following the tragedy
Carcasses of the flamingos following the tragedy

According to the locals residing in the Laxmi Nagar area, they heard a huge bang and found out that flamingos had crashed on their roofs and some had entered their houses. “At approximately 8.30 pm, we initially heard the sound of a flight, followed by a loud explosion. We assumed it was a bomb blast, but then I noticed a flamingo on my roof. When I stepped outside, I saw the bodies of several flamingos scattered on the ground.

The police informed us that the birds might have collided with an aircraft mid-air, leading to their deaths. The incident was horrifying; it damaged my roof, a flamingo entered the house, and there was a pool of blood inside,” said Deepali Lokhande, a resident of Laxmi Nagar.

“We heard a loud noise, so I told my family to go outside to stay safe since we had no idea what was happening. Once we were outside, the situation became clear. We saw many dead flamingos, one of which had damaged our roof. We notified the police, who then sent a team that helped us. We thanked them for their quick response,” said Prashant Kurade, whose roof was damaged in the incident.

Sanjay Rane, another resident said initially there was a lot of chaos as everyone was clueless about what had happened, “This incident was uncalled for, no one would have imagined that dozens of dead flamingos would land up at our doorsteps. One flamingo had landed on my house and had damaged it. We had seen the flamingos and had figured out that they were dead as they were lying in a pool of blood and hence had informed the police about this horrific incident.

Officials demand answers

Kishor Rithe, Director of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), told mid-day that the flamingos were found dead behind a restaurant and bar in Lakshmi Nagar, Ghatkopar. "After learning about this tragic incident, I informed the Mangrove Foundation Chief, Rama Rao (IFS) who promptly sent the RFO and Dy Conservator Forest on the spot. The carcasses of the birds were collected last night for carrying out post-mortem."

Sanjay Rane a resident points out to the damaged roof (right) A local Prashant Kurade whose roof was damaged in the incident. Pics/Rajesh Gupta
Sanjay Rane a resident points out to the damaged roof (right) A local Prashant Kurade whose roof was damaged in the incident. Pics/Rajesh Gupta

"This morning it was confirmed that an international plane collided with the birds. It could have been dangerous for the passengers too. BNHS has mentioned the importance of protecting high tide roosting places in and around Mumbai, along the coast from any kind of disturbance. Hope the concerned authorities will learn from this incident," Rithe added. The incident happened at around 8.40 pm. After receiving information about the incident, Prashant Bahadur, Range Forest Officer of Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary, and his team arrived at the scene around 9.30 PM Shortly after that, Deepak Khade, Divisional Forest Officer of the Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Unit, and Vikrant Khade, Assistant Conservator of Forests for Mangrove Protection in Mumbai, also arrived at the site.

“During the search, Forest Department officials took custody of 29 dead flamingos. On the morning of Tuesday, May 21, they continued their search at the site and discovered 10 more dead flamingos. In total, the Forest Department recovered 39 flamingo bodies from the site. These were taken to the Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Centre in Airoli, where a veterinary doctor is conducting post-mortems,” said SV Ramarao, Additional Chief Principal Conservator of Forests.

“Had any passenger been affected due to the bird hit, it would have made global headlines, but the death of the 40 flamingos does not seem to bother the authorities, urban planners in particular,” NatConnect director B N Kumar said.

In his email to the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Kumar called for a high-level investigation to ascertain how the Emirates aircraft clashed with the birds and whether the pilot could not notice the flock on his radar. NatConnect, which, along with several fellow environment-focused organisations, has been conducting a series of campaigns to save Mumbai's Biodiversity including wetlands and mangroves, cautioned that the upcoming Navi Mumbai International Airport will be prone to such bird strikes.

The wetlands and the flamingo abodes in Navi Mumbai are being systematically buried despite warnings from organisations such as BNHS. Environmentalists fear that if the traditional habitat of the birds is destroyed, they could land at the Navi Mumbai airport which has mudflats along the Panvel creek. NatConnect pointed out, that the airport had committed in its Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report that the wetlands would be preserved. “This gave us the hope that the wetlands would be preserved, yet the systematic destruction of the water bodies is on,” Kumar said.

Emirates confirms incident

“Emirates can confirm that EK508 from Dubai to Mumbai on May 20 was involved in a bird strike incident upon landing. The aircraft landed safely and all passengers and crew disembarked without injury, however sadly a number of flamingos were lost and Emirates is cooperating with the authorities with regards to the the matter,” an Emirates spokesperson said. 

Why has this happened?

Environmentalist Stalin D wrote to the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Forest Change (MOEF&CC) and other authorities, highlighting two causes of aircraft bird strikes and proposing solutions.

Thane Creek Sanctuary Issue
>> Construction of tall towers hosting power lines within the sanctuary and Ramsar site
>> Power cables are higher than older Tata Power lines, posing a risk to aircraft landing at Mumbai airport
>> Construction proceeded despite pending permissions and court orders
>> Environmentalist suggests reducing tower height or rerouting lines

Loss of water bodies
>> CIDCO destroyed thousands of hectares of coastal wetlands hosting waterfowl and flamingos
>> Reclamation and construction on wetlands continue despite protests
>> Flamingos and waterfowl now concentrated in five water bodies in Navi Mumbai
>> CIDCO plans to use water bodies for construction, ignoring court orders and Wetland Atlas
>> Allegations of bird harassment by builders to clear water bodies for construction
>> CIDCO built Navi Mumbai airport on 1,400 ha of wetlands, abandoning mangrove park condition

>> Thorough investigation into bird harassment in Thane creek area
>> Demand for Forest department or criminal investigation to expose truth

No of flamingos that collided

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