April 2010: The Uran wetlands, around 60 km. from Mumbai city, home to around 200 species of birds, are threatened by commercial development by the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust – Special Economic Zone (JNPT-SEZ). Over 75 bird species breed here, including the Black-breasted Weaver that was seen after a lengthy disappearance of 52 years.
Several IUCN Red Data species which also fall under schedule I & IV of the Wildlife Protection Act of India, 1972 are found here and the area is an important stopover for migrant birds travelling from Europe, Central Asia and the Arctic Tundra. The endangered monitor lizard, four species of mangrove associates and seven terrestrial plant species such as the rare glory lily Gloriosa superba are found here.
In the past month, the JNPT has allegedly destroyed large tracts of the wetlands by reclaiming them. It is also important to note that some of the places where the dumping is being conducted are demarcated as Coastal Regulatory Zones I where construction is not permitted.
Not only will this destruction of mudflats harm the fragile flora and fauna of the region, but this will also aggravate flooding and leave us more vulnerable to rising seas and extreme climatic events. Uran needs protection, not further destruction. This is not one isolated incident, but part of a larger plan that will see Mumbai stripped off its coastal defences, including mangroves, wetlands, mudflats and coastal vegetation. Uran must be saved because if we allow it to go today, visionless planners will merely be encouraged to declare war on asset after ecological asset in the beleaguered city of Mumbai.
To help protect Uran write a letter to the Chief Minister asking that
1. The reclamation of the Uran wetlands be halted immediately.
2. Their protection must be fortified so that the area can regenerate.
3. Notify the area as an Important Bird Area to ensure that the multitude of rare species it harbours are protected.