Panvel lake makeover near Mumbai ‘killing’ natural beauty

Real wildlife is sought to be replaced with artificial LED back-lit deer and birds
Last Updated 05 May 2023, 09:37 IST

The biodiversity around the 400-year-old Vadale Lake at Panvel in Raigad district is being threatened under the guise of artificial beautification of the natural surroundings, environmentalists alleged.

According to them, this was happening despite the intervention of Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.

Tragically, real wildlife is sought to be replaced with artificial LED back-lit deer and birds, the green groups have alerted the Chief Minister afresh.

Several exotic birds such as painted snipe which roosted and nested on the grass in the lake now are endangered as the Panvel Municipal Corporation is set to clear the grass and weeds as part of the beautification, the environmentalists said in a press statement on Friday.

Responding to emails from NatConnect Foundation, the Chief Minister has directed twice over the Principal Secretary- Environment, Praveen Darde to look into the issue.

“The continuing work on the pond, also known as Ballashwar Lake, has now endangered the birds, their eggs and fledglings,” said Jyoti Nadkarni of Kharghar Hill and Wetlands Forum.

"Grass and weeds are their habitat on which they survive feeding, nesting, resting and hiding from predators," avid birder Madhav Athavale said. The removal of the grass would lead to exposing the birds to the danger of predation and destruction of their home, he pointed out and regretted the civic authorities are not heeding to the nature lovers’ pleas.

The lake supports rich flora and fauna and is home to almost 80 species of local and migratory birds such as Painted Snipe and waterhen. Some such as the comb duck have made reappearance after nearly ten years. Some birds not only roost there but also breed and nest there, Nadkarni said.

The acts are against the letter and spirit of the Wildlife Preservation Act 1972 and PCA 1960 as the destruction causes suffering to the birds, she said.
Illuminating the place with so many LED lights, laser beams create light pollution and is not natural for birds both diurnal and nocturnal causing serious health and behaviour disorders also making them vulnerable to the predators, NatConnect Foundation director B N Kumar pointed out.

Light is the enemy number one of birds and the glitter inside and outside the lake will make the entire area uninhabitable for the flying guests, Kumar said.

Incidentally, Kumar said, the theme for the World Migratory Bird Day 2022 was Light Pollution and the event focused on protecting the avian guests from bright lights which have become common at various gardens and lakes.

The nature groups have sent appeals and reminders through our emails and even met the Panvel Municipal Commissioner several times suggesting him to install information boards around the promenade about the flora and fauna found at the lake for public awareness instead of this wanton destruction.

“But what we see now is the artificial beautification being done by installing lights, LED back-lit deer and birds,” Nadkarni said.

Artificial grass mounds are used as floaters to install fake LED lit birds, whereas raised islands required for the living birds to shelter during high water levels in monsoon are not being provided.

It is not clear whether the Panvel biodiversity committee has been consulted about the project, the activists said and called for immediate intervention from the CM to conserve the biodiversity.

(Published 05 May 2023, 09:37 IST)

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