The Konkan divisional commissioner on Monday directed the Raigad collector to prepare a proposal to declare Panje in Uran, Navi Mumbai, as a ‘wetland’. The directive was given during a meeting of the Bombay High Court-appointed wetland and mangrove committee, headed by the commissioner.
Spread across 213 hectares and 157 hectares as buffer area for migratory bird roosting, Panje holds up to 1,50,000 migratory and resident birds during winter. Environment groups have also been petitioning state Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray to declare Panje as a bird sanctuary.
The wetland and mangrove committee was appointed within a month of the HC ordering a blanket ban on mangrove destruction in the state on September 18, 2018.
What are wetlands
Wetlands are ecosystems saturated with water, either seasonally or permanently. They are important for flood control as they store excess water and ensure its quality, providing resilience against drought. They play a central role in sustainable development by supplying all our freshwater. According to the RAMSAR Convention, wetlands include: “all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans”.
Panje was not included by the district administration in its final list of newly identified and verified wetlands in line with 2017 wetland rules that were submitted to the Maharashtra government’s environment department on January 3. From Raigad district, 130 such zones were proposed. Raigad district collector Nidhi Choudhary confirmed that a new proposal will be prepared.
The proposed wetland list will be studied by the state wetland committee headed by environment minister. Following that, a final list will be notified.
In September 2017, the Union environment ministry notified the new Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules replacing the 2010 version. The new rules do not incorporate wetlands in coastal regulation zones (CRZ) and de-recognised salt pans as wetlands.
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