August 5, 2021 11:45:48 pm
Days after a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) circular declaring a 10-km radius around the Thane Creek Wildlife Sanctuary as an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) created panic among builders, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has indicated that the ESZ will be restricted to a radius of 3.89 km from the boundary of the sanctuary, as per its guidelines.
In May, MoEFCC had notified a 48.32 sq km area around the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS) as ESZ. The zone is meant to act as a buffer for protected areas. The draft proposal, which was sent to the environment ministry by the Maharashtra government in March this year, was gazetted on April 30, and citizens were invited to give their suggestions and objections within 60 days.
On July 30, after a passage of 90 days, chief engineer Vinod Chithore of the 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 would be affected with the implementation of the plan.
“I issued this circular as per the directions of the forest department as no ESZ had been fixed,” Chithore said.
The MoEFCC has now called a meeting on August 7 to finalise the ESZ.
“The additional secretary of the Union environment ministry is having a meeting on August 17 wherein the eco-sensitive zone of the Thane sanctuary will be fixed. We have recommended that the ESZ be from zero to 3.89 km and exclude Deonar and Kanjur dumping yard as well as Bhandup and Ghatkopar pumping stations. The total ESZ is 48 sq km. Though the meeting will be held on August 17, it will take three months for final notification to come,’’ Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forests, said. Tiwari on Wednesday also submitted a report on suggestion and objection to the new ESZ to the state forest department.
As per the government proposal, the ESZ of 0-3.9 km radius around the creek is narrowest at its southernmost point near the Vashi bridge, where it is 0 km, while at its northernmost point at Thane-Kalwa bridge, its width is 2km. A zonal master plan will be prepared within two years from the date of publication for the protection of the ESZ.
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.
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