Media Release: Thane Flamingo Sanctuary Proposed As A First Ramsar Site From MMR
On International Day for Conservation of Mangroves, the Maharashtra government announced its roadmap for future conservation and rejuvenation of mangroves in the State at the fourth and culminating Majhi Vasundhara Town Hall.
If all goes according to plans, Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) will soon get its first Ramsar site as the State Mangrove Cell has proposed Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS) as Ramsar site as a wetland of international importance.
The move was announced by Virendra Tiwari, APCCF Mangrove Cell, during the fourth Climate Resilient Maharashtra Townhall organised by Climate Voices- a collective of three organisations Purpose, Asar and Climate Trends along with the Maharashtra Environment and Climate Change Department’s Majhi Vasundhara initiative on Monday, July 26, which is observed as International Day for Conservation of Mangroves globally.
“A proposal to declare Thane creek as a Ramsar site has been submitted and we are working on it with the Maharashtra Environment department. We are waiting for its approval by the State Wetland Authority, headed by the Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray, and closely working with the environment department on this for its speedy approval. Following this, it can be sent to the central government,” said Tiwari.
A Ramsar site is a wetland area designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental environmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
Among other key announcements, Manisha Patankar-Mhaiskar, Principal Secretary, Maharashtra Environment and Climate Change Department, said that the environment department will be setting up a task force to conduct a fresh exercise to identify, demarcate, and preserve wetlands across Maharashtra left out of coastal zones and inland areas.
“We will be looking at all the wetlands (even those that may have been left out) for our latest inventory in an attempt to protect as many wetlands as possible across Maharashtra. The minister is already planning to meet with collectors from all districts in the state to conduct a fresh exercise to identify and demarcate wetlands which are left out. We will be setting up a taskforce to get this done at the earliest,” said Mhaiskar.
Stating that the importance of mangroves and wetlands cannot be emphasized more given the impact of flooding witnessed across Maharashtra recently, Mhaiskar said, “Along with Mangrove Cell, we will also ensure protection to all existing mangroves and also plant mangroves wherever possible to develop an 'Emerald Necklace' around Mumbai and the MMR. This will not only act as a barrier against flooding but also save this region from extreme weather events.”
(Source: Maharashtra Mangrove Cell)
Meanwhile giving details of the roadmap for future conservation and rejuvenation of mangroves in Maharashtra Tiwari informed that as per High Court orders they plan to get the remaining mangroves on government land transferred to forest department and notify them as reserve forest (see graphic for current status) as well as have also proposed to get possession of mangrove areas under territorial wing of Forest department.
Speaking about strengthening the protection mechanism, Mangrove Cell informed that they have completed construction of a boundary wall across 3km of 4.5km for protecting mangroves from encroachments. “For further protection of mangroves, we have also commissioned a study to evaluate the possibility of monitoring mangroves using CCTVs as well as drones,” said Tiwari.
Within the next two years mangrove cell also plans to set up two major tourism attractions- mangrove parks at Gorai and Dahisar. “All clearances have been sought and the work order has been given for the Gorai park and it will be ready in the next two years. Work on the Dahisar mangrove park is also underway,” said Tiwari.
Maharashtra has reached out to the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MOEFCC) with a proposal for the forest department to be empowered under the Environment Act 1986, which would allow faster delegation of power to forest officials to take action in Mangrove & Wetland destruction cases, informed government officials.
The Town Hall was also attended by experts like Dr Afroz Ahmad, Member, National Wetland Committee, MoEF&CC, Gayatri Singh, Senior Advocate, Debi Goenka, Executive Trustee, Conservation Action Trust, Nandkumar Pawar founder of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishthan, Stalin D, Director, Vanashakti & Member of Maharashtra Wetland & Mangrove Grievance Redressal Committee and Dr Roxy Koll, Senior Scientist, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology-Pune.
The Wetland & Mangrove Redressal Committee has received over 100 complaints from civil society representatives but not a single site has been restored, informed Stalin D.
Emphasising that the Maharashtra government has failed in its commitment to protect wetlands, Senior Advocate Gayatri Singh recommended that on priority all wetlands need to be restored irrespective of whether they were man-made or natural. “Existing wetlands also need to be protected by developing a brief documentation. Strict action needs to be taken against officials who have allowed violation of wetland rules and a nodal agency needs to be set up primarily focussing on wetland conservation,” recommended Singh.
Nandkumar Pawar, founder of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishthan representing the fishing community in MMR & Raigad districts stated that the maximum impact of wetland and mangrove destruction has been witnessed in Uran taluka, Raigad where 2740 hectares has been lost. “We recommend that the flood mitigation measures be implemented for Uran to protect the livelihood of fishermen,” he said.
Thanking all the panelists and participants, Bhagwan Kesbhat, founder of nonprofit Waatavaran Foundation, which hosted the Town Hall said that all the recommendations from this townhall will be shared with the Environment department as well as the Mangrove Cell.
RECOMMENDATIONS SUGGESTED DURING THE TOWN HALL:
● Nominating A State Agency To Take Charge Of Wetland Protection
● Using Science To Identify And Protect Crucial Mangrove Patches And Wetlands From The Perspective Of Climate Resilience
● Encouraging Citizens To File Complaints Highlighting Cases of Mangrove And Wetland Destruction
● Just Like A Mangrove Cell, There Is A Need For A Dedicated Cell For Wetland Protection And Management
● The State Must Develop A Multi-disciplinary Institution Or Foundation For Wetland Conservation Research And Advocacy
● Integrate The Action Plan For Mangroves/Wetlands With State Climate Action Plan
● Brief Documentation Of Wetlands Every 6 Months Through Better Inter-departmental Coordination Between Environment, Revenue, & Forest Department
● Empowering & Working Closely With Local Communities
● The Carbon Incentive Scheme Should be launched in the Wetlands/Mangroves Areas by ascertaining the carbon sequestration value of the site based on scientific approach
● Appoint An Environment Officer In Every District
Dr. Roxy Koll, Senior Scientist, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology-Pune
“The number, intensity and duration of cyclones in the Arabian Sea have increased, presenting a new threat to the west coast of India. The instances of widespread extreme rains that cause floods also have increased, by threefold, along the west coast. Climatic extremes due to storm surge, rains, and a rising sea level now overlap to create floods that cover a large area and for a prolonged time. At the same time, cities like Mumbai have lost their floodplains, mangroves and rivers that could absorb the flood water. We need to urgently map the coastal risk due to these overlapping climatic impacts, and accordingly devise a sustainable coastal zone that includes natural defenses.”
Debi Goenka, Executive Trustee, Conservation Action Trust
“I am glad that the battle to protect mangroves that was started in 1982 has now reached this stage where mangroves are protected by not just the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, but also by High Court Orders. The notification of mangroves as Reserved or Protected Forests, the setting up of the Mangrove Cell and the Mangrove Foundation, and the physical protection now given to mangroves, has been a great achievement. Hopefully, mangroves will now get actual protection instead of being treated as wastelands.”
Dr. Afroz Ahmad, Member, National Wetland Committee, MoEF&CC
“Maharashtra is blessed with unique geography, topography, soil condition and environmental settings and therefore conservation and management of wetlands and mangroves are indispensable and deserve top priorities in the context of climate change. However, they continue to be the most threatened ecosystems and are dying due to encroachment, obstruction of natural drainage, sedimentation, eutrophication, pollution, industry, agricultural expansion among other factors. If we do not recognise their ecological services today, impacts of changing climate will drown us even faster.”