After complaints from environment activists, Raigad Collector Nidhi Chaudhary has identified 17 natural water bodies to be treated as wetlands in the district, including those which need to be protected and conserved.
Ms. Chaudhary was informed about the complaints of wetlands being destroyed at a divisional commissioner meeting. “First we sent notices to the CIDCO and JNPT, and since there were no response from them, after verifying that some of the places under their jurisdiction fall under the definition of wetland, we sent a communique to the government,” Ms. Chaudhary said.
In response to a letter from the State Environment Department to identify wetlands as per the wetland atlas, Ms. Chaudhary in her communique said that some water bodies under the JNPT or CIDCO should be notified as wetlands. “Whether it is a natural or man-made pond, the fact that it falls under the definition of wetland, is enough, and it should be protected,” she said.
B.N. Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation, who has been following up the issue, said, “The letter vindicates our stand. Moreover, the list prepared by the Collector on the basis of the tehsildar’s ground report does not mention the areas of the individual wetlands. This is essential to prevent vested interests from shrinking the water bodies with landfill and then claim that these do not fit into the definition of wetland.”
A Supreme Court order stipulates protection of water bodies above 2.25 hectares, he pointed out.
Of the wetlands identified in Uran, the ones at Sheva and Karal are under the JNPT and they are permanent freshwater marshes and shrub-dominated water bodies.
“The JNPT refused to treat them as wetlands. Two other water bodies at Khopte and Bori BK are mangrove wetlands, and they must be protected,” Mr. Kumar said.
Ms. Choudhari’s letter also identified two wetlands each in Pimpli and Kharghar and one each in Taloja, Morave, Jui, Kutukbandhan and Sonkhar, brushing aside the CIDCO argument that these do not fit into the wetland atlas code, he said.
Activists have pointed out that there is a concerted and deliberate attempt to bury all the wetlands in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region with the ulterior motive of creating concrete jungles at the cost of environment and human lives.
CIDCO and JNPT officials could not be reached for comment.