The Maharashtra government plans to retain a temporary bridge, built to facilitate the construction of the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL), as a deck for viewing migratory flamingos that visit Mumbai.
The 5.6-km-long temporary access bridge had been constructed to facilitate the movement of machinery and men for work on the harbour link. The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) has begun construction on the 22-km-long harbour link from the Sewri end, which will eventually connect Mumbai to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT).
MMRDA Commissioner S V R Srinivas said, “The temporary bridge was erected to carry machinery. Demobilising this bridge is going to cost us money. Instead, we will keep it and it can serve as a good platform for watching flamingos. We are doing a detailed plan.” He added that the area can be developed as an independent tourist spot.
Sources in the MMRDA said the directive on retaining the temporary access bridge came from Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray.
The Sewri mudflats near the harbour link is a flamingo habitat. Two species of flamingos — greater and lesser — arrive in the wetlands of Mumbai between November and May. While the greater flamingos are taller, whiter in body colour and have a mixed feeding pattern (insects, small fishes and algae), the lesser flamingos are comparatively smaller, pink in body colour and only feed on algae.
Neenu Somraj, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Mangrove Protection Cell, said, “There were earlier plans for a boardwalk in the Sewri mangroves. But this plan was shelved. If the temporary platform is retained, it can be used for birdwatching. Apart from flamingos, many other birds come here. We observed that work on the harbour link hasn’t disturbed the movement of flamingos much. This has also been seen in studies done by the Bombay Natural History Society.”
The mangrove protection cell had recently suggested some mitigation measures to the MMRDA to reduce illumination work on the under-construction bridge so that there is less disturbance to the flamingos after dusk, said officials.
Environmentalist D Stalin of NGO Vanashakti said, “It is a good idea to keep the platform for nature lovers to connect with the fauna. It is a good example of showcasing bio diversity alongside development work.”