Soon, Mumbaikars can walk through the mangroves along the Palm Beach Road in Navi Mumbai and get closer to flamingos in the Thane creek. The forest department and the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) are undertaking a joint survey of mangroves in the area with the plan of creating a wetland centre there.
While the centre will come up outside the mangrove forest area, the plan is to create boardwalks through the mangroves all the way from Palm Beach Road to the western edge of the Thane creek. Visitors will also get a chance to see flamingos and other coastal birds from watchtowers.
“With the High Court intervention, lot of mangrove areas have been declared as reserved forests, so there is a need for institutes where people can have access to information on mangroves and wetlands. The survey will help us analyse the potential of the site, and help us decide what activities can be undertaken there,” said G K Anarse, general manger, environment, CIDCO.
According to the forest department, this stretch of mangroves covers around 200 hectares. The joint survey is being conducted to get the best alignment for the boardwalks that will not require any mangroves to be cut. Once the alignment is sorted, the major boardwalk work should complete within six months and the project will be funded by CIDCO.
“The watchtowers will be concealed in such a manner that people can have access to wildlife without disturbing it. We do not want reserved mangrove forests to be thought of as waste lands. With such activities, we can bring out the recreational value and with the scarcity of open spaces in the city, people will be encouraged to conserve these forests and consider them as an asset,” said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests, mangrove cell.
The mangrove cell is also planning to start the western coast’s first marine interpretation centre at Airoli. This interpretation centre will have information on the state’s marine biodiversity as well as on issues related to livelihood of fishermen. The only other marine interpretation centres in the country are Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park at Port Blair in Andaman and Gulf of Mannar Marine Interpretation Centre near Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.
According to the forest department’s plan, visitors to the Airoli centre can take a boat to the proposed wildlife sanctuary in Thane creek and up to the Vashi bridge to experience the marine birds and ecosystem up close. There will be an open-air auditorium for students and visitors with an access to audio tours, models and photos on marine biodiversity.
The forest department will also arrange live displays of crab farming in the small ponds near the interpretation centre.There will be board walks through the 50 hectares of mangroves right up to the eastern edge of the Thane creek.
This project will be mainly funded by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), an international agency that has set aside around Rs 80 crore for sustainable management of eight coastal and marine protected areas in the country, of which Thane creek is a site.