The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on October 14 issued a final notification demarcating a 0 km to 3.9 km stretch as eco sensitive zone (ESZ) in the Thane Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, where tens of thousands of flamingos flock every year.
The notification is as per a proposal of the Maharashtra government’s forest department. The state had sent the draft proposal to MoEFCC in March, and on April 30, people were invited to give their suggestions and objections within 60 days.
On July 30, when after a passage of 90 days, the Union ministry did not issue a notification, chief engineer Vinod Chithore of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) development plan department, issued a circular declaring a 10-km radius around the sanctuary as ESZ. The circular created a scare among builders as many projects were to be affected with the implementation of the plan.
Days later, the MoEFCC indicated that the ESZ would be restricted to a radius of 3.89 km from the boundary of the sanctuary. It called a meeting on August 17 and said the final notification would come three months later.
The sanctuary, spread over 16 sq km, was carved out for protecting the habitat of flamingos. It is located between Eastern Express Highway and Sion-Panvel Highway.
The ESZ is supposed to act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to less protection. The National Wildlife Action Plan 2002-2016 had identified them as “vital ecological corridor links” and stressed that they must be protected to prevent isolation of fragments of biodiversity.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Virendra Tiwari, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of the Mangrove Protection Cell, said: “The Thane Creek Wildlife Sanctuary was notified in 2015 and there was no eco sensitive zone drawn. In the absence of eco sensitive zone, the 10 km deemed ESZ was made applicable. There were requests from many quarters to reduce the eco sensitive zone. We had a meeting with expert committee of environment ministry on August 17. The ESZ is now fixed from zero to 3.89 km as we had suggested.’’ The total area of the ESZ is 48.32 sq km.
As per the BMC notification, builders would have had to approach the state and national board for wildlife for permissions and pay a mitigation fee of 2 per cent of project costs.
MHADA vice-president Anil Diggikar said, “This is great news for redevelopment of old buildings as well as new projects. It will create new housing stock for Mumbai. For nearly six months, work had come to a standstill.’’
Vinod Chithore, chief engineer of BMC’s development plan department, said: “I know of scores of projects, which were stuck. Now, they will not need a clearance from state and national board for wildlife as they are beyond buffer zone.’’
Deepak Goradia of CREDAI-MCHI said, “The (BMC) ESZ notification had affected scores of projects in MMR. Finally, the government has approved whatever was recommended by the forest department. Now, many projects will see the light of the day.”
Projects in Thane and Navi Mumbai as well as in Kurla, Chembur, Mankhurd, Govandi, Ghatkopar, Vikhroli, Bhandup, Kanjur, Mulund, Borivali, Kandivali, Dahisar, Goregaon, Malad, Andheri East, Santacruz, Bandra East, Dadar, Parel and Matunga in Mumbai were affected.