The massive burial of wetlands and destruction of mangroves will pose a grave bird threat to the flights into and out of the Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) thus making the site a pilots’ nightmare, environmentalists have warned.
In a message to the Director-General of Civil Aviation and Indian Pilots Guild, environment groups have pointed out that wetlands such as Panje and Bhenkhal in Navi Mumbai’s Uran area that are destination to millions of local and migratory birds are being systematically destroyed. This could lead to the birds going helter-skelter and finding safe refuge in the high secure airport zone.
Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has already written to the government but there has been no visible action to save the eco-sensitive sites, the environment-focused NatConnect Foundation and Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, said in their letter to DGCA appealing to the regulator to take a serious note of the dangers.
The letter has also been marked to the civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Union and State Environment Ministers, apart from Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
“It is really sad that the government has been turning a blind eye to the grave danger despite the BNHS’ warnings,” said B N Kumar of NatConnect Foundation. “We have been shouting from the rooftops against the destruction of wetlands and mangroves under the guise of infrastructure development such as Navi Mumbai SEZ. Though the landfill has been stopped in some places, the destruction is rampant all across Uran,” Kumar said.
“We are not against development, but it has to be balanced with ecology and safety of human beings,” Kumar said.
NMIA is surrounded by several wetlands that are home to birds, some of which are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, per BNHS. A baseline report by the Society, commissioned by CIDCO for the airport also cautioned against the disappearance of the wetlands.
“CIDCO is the biggest culprit of environmental destruction,” said Nandakumar Pawar of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan. “We have already demanded the scrapping of NMSEZ which is anti-environment. The illegal landfill and blocking of the free flow of tidal waters has already led to floods in 20 villages,” he said and wondered: “What is the point in having such projects that endanger the environment and human lives?”
The Wetlands Grievance Redressal Committee has also asked CIDCO and Raigad District Collector to maintain Panje as a wetland, allow free flow of water to the place to be included in the wetland atlas.
“We sincerely hope that the DGCA and Pilots Guild will take a serious view of the future shocks and the flights with hundreds of passengers could face a real danger of bird hits,” Kumar said.