As part of its roadmap for future conservation and rejuvenation of mangroves & wetlands across the state, the Maharashtra State mangrove cell along with the State Environment department, Majhi Vasundhara project made a key announcement, proposing to declare Thane Flamingo Sanctuary as a Ramsar site, which would be the first in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
This was one of the two key announcements that were made during the fourth Climate Resilient Maharashtra Townhall hosted by Waatavaran Foundation and 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, on the occasion of International Day for Conservation of Mangroves.
The announcement was made by the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Mangrove Cell - Virendra Tiwari. “A proposal to declare Thane creek as a Ramsar site has been submitted and we are working on it with the Maharashtra Environment department,” he said.
The Mangrove Cell is now awaiting approval by the State Wetland Authority, headed by the Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray and closely working with the environment department for speedy approval.
What are Ramsar sites:
Ramsar sites are wetlands considered to be of international importance. The Ramsar Convention, an international body, forms the basis for the identification of such wetlands. The international treaty came into effect in 1971 after identifying the first such wetland at the Ramsar city of Iran. The Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
If the proposal is approved the TCFC, spread across 1,690.5 hectares, will be the first Ramsar site in MMR.
Another key announcement made during the town hall was the development of a task force to identify a fresh list of wetlands for the state.
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 that are left out. We will be setting up a task force to get this done at the earliest,” added Mhaiskar.
Other plans :
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.
Environmentalists say that while the key announcements are welcome, but what about mangroves and wetlands already destroyed? Harish Pandey, an environmentalist from New Link Road Residents’ Forum (NLRRF) in Dahisar said: "What road map does the state mangrove cell or the forest department have for the restoration of mangroves and wetlands that are already destroyed? This part has been neglected for years. Besides this, a tehsil level committee should be formed which should have local police, civic body, mangrove cell, forest department and most importantly citizens. This will make it easier for people like us, who have a hard time reaching top officials. The court-appointed wetland committee is hardly making any visits, many of my complaints are pending for over a year now.