May 7, 2021 4:47:12 am
The ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has on April 30 notified 48.32 sq km around the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS) as an eco sensitive zone (ESZ). The ESZ is meant to act as a buffer for protected areas and reduces developmental pressures around a wildlife sanctuary or national park.
The draft proposal, which was sent to the ministry by the Maharashtra government in March, was published in an official gazette on April 30. It invited people to submit their suggestions and objections to the notification within 60 days.
A 48.32 sq km area, extending from 0 km to 3.89 km from the boundary of the sanctuary – located in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai – has been notified as ESZ. Spread across 1690.5 hectare in Mulund, Vikhroli, Bhandup and Kanjur, TCFS is home to 12 mangrove species, 39 categories of mangrove species, 167 species of birds like flamingos, 45 fish species, 59 species of butterflies, 67 insect species and mammals like jackals among others.
At its southernmost point near Vashi bridge, the width of the ESZ is 0 km, while at its northernmost point at Thane-Kalwa bridge, the width is 2 km. About 1,400 hectare of mangrove forests towards Navi Mumbai side of the ESZ were not included in the original ESZ because they had already been declared as reserve forests under the Indian Forest Act and are covered under Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), forest officials said. However, last February, the ministry recommended their inclusion in the ESZ.
“There is an increase of about 14 sq km from the earlier notified ESZ of 34 sq km. Mangroves from Navi Mumbai have been included in the current notification. It will go a long way in the conservation of mangroves in MMR,” said Virendra Tiwari, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Mangrove Cell).
While highly polluting industries and mining activities among others are prohibited, certain activities, which will be regulated, are listed in the final notification. They include construction of hotels and resorts as well promotion of eco-tourism – albeit not within 1 km of the boundary of the protected area or up to the extent of ESZ, whichever is nearer. Agro-forestry, use of eco-friendly transport, cottage industries and organic farming will also be promoted.
The zonal master plan will be prepared within two years from the date of publication for the protection of ESZ, which is supposed to act as a transition zone from areas of high to less protection.
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