Of the 47.4 hectares sought for the project, 38 hectares are of protected mangrove forests in Sewri – critical for migratory flamingos – and 8.8 hectares forest on Navi Mumbai end.
The environment ministry has yet again deferred forest clearance for the Rs.11,000-crore Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) project, as the Maharashtra government has failed to submit reports on the project’s adverse impact on flamingos and mangroves as demanded by the ministry. The project, that requires 47.4 hectares of forest land, had come up for appraisal before the forest advisory committee (FAC) for the fourth time last month.Of the 47.4 hectares sought for the project, 38 hectares are of protected mangrove forests in Sewri – critical for migratory flamingos – and 8.8 hectares forest on Navi Mumbai end. The project connects Sewri and Chirle in Navi Mumbai with a 22-km long sea link. The FAC, in its March meeting, had asked the state government to rope in Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) or Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun to study the project’s impact on existing mangroves and flamingo population.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>But, this information was not provided to the FAC in the June meeting. The FAC noted, “It (the study) is desirable in view of the sensitive wildlife issues involved. The detailed plan, enlisting steps to safeguard the flamingo habitat and cause least disturbance to their congregation, is another condition yet to be fulfilled.The diversion of mangroves and the alignment of the MTHL have been biggest cause of concern for conservationists, as they feel the project construction and the ensuing traffic will ruin the famous habitat of migratory flamingos. An alternative alignment, 500-700 metres southwards, was proposed, only to be shot down by authorities owing to cost over-runs.From their breeding grounds in Rann of Kutch, around 30,000 flamingos congregate at the Sewri mudflats, turning the otherwise industrial part of the city into a sea of pink. With the environment ministry also approving a defence road project running close to the flamingo breeding ground, the MTHL’s potential impact on the avian habitat assumes greater significance.The Sewri mudflats are already under threat due to immense pollution emanating from coal storage depots, shipyards and domestic sewage. Sewri mudflats have also been enlisted as home to 150 bird species.