Mumbai’s biodiversity zones will disappear
Naresh Chandra Singh, 46, is from Kharghar, originally from Manipur in northeast India. A childhood endowed with nature gave him a natural passion for the environment and its preservation. A job at the American computer consulting company Gartner led him to establish a base in Kharghar, which allowed him to experience the vast natural landscape of the district and Navi Mumbai as a whole.
The slow degradation of nature in Navi Mumbai against the backdrop of rapid urbanization has forced it to fight for the valuable biodiversity that surrounds and sustains the region.
In 2018, he and other concerned citizens filed a PIL with the Bombay High Court against CIDCO (City and Industrial Development Corporation) to preserve a pond in Kharghar, after which they worked hard to secure greater participation. of the public by founding a group called “Save the Wetlands and Kharghar Hills”.
Some of the group’s landmark work includes documenting the flora and fauna found in the wetlands, hills and grasslands of Kharghar, communicating through various channels to reach government officials and discussing important issues regarding the conservation of Kharghar. nature in Kharghar. They also managed to collaborate with other similar groups such as “Save Navi Mumbai Environment”, “Save Panje” and “Save Aarey”.
Read more: Despite CM Uddhav Thackeray’s support, the fight to save Aarey is far from over
What are the main environmental issues in Mumbai that concern you?
Continued degradation of Mumbai’s natural wetlands (including mangroves, coastal water bodies, mud flats, salt marshes) and hills (which are an extension of Sahyadris aka Western Ghats) due to infrastructure expansion / real estate development and illegal settlements / commercial activities.
In your opinion, what are the implications of these in the long term? If not addressed?
A. Already, these environmental problems have led to disrupt the ecological and natural balance of the city of Mumbai and its surroundings. If these are not stopped, more man-made disasters, including massive flooding of 2005 levels and deadly landslides, are inevitable. In addition, all the areas of biodiversity that make Mumbai livable for its citizens as well as the wildlife it attracts will disappear, pushing the city into even greater conflicts that cannot even be imagined and predicted at this time.
Read more: Despite hundreds of crores spent on de-siltation, why Mumbai could still see flooding this monsoon
How did the “Save Navi Mumbai” campaign help put public pressure on the government to conserve wetlands and local biodiversity?
As far as I know, this was not planned. It started as a gathering of alert citizens who love the nature around them. This was usually in response to some threats caused or posed to the natural biodiversity areas around them like Talawe, which concerns Sunil and Shruti Agarwal and the beautiful Kharghar wetlands and hills which concern Jyoti Nadkarni, Tarang Sarin and myself. There are many more fighting for each sector of Navi Mumbai, Panvel and Uran. Each of us supports them, communicates and works with each other in various initiatives.
Thousands of residents of Navi Mumbai face serious health risks due to increasing industrial pollution. How do you respond to this problem?
The situation in particular in places like Kharghar, Panvel and Taloja is indeed very dangerous from the point of view of air and water pollution. Recent findings from organizations like Watavaran have recognized how dangerous and risky the air we breathe is. the city we live in. Despite orders from the National Green Tribunal and a committee overseeing the situation and the penalties imposed, pollution levels remain very high beyond safety levels. And there are no solutions in sight as the industrial organizations based here seem to be very powerful and influential.
The Navi Mumbai International Airport project has become the cause of several social, environmental and ecological concerns. Could you comment on that?
It has been noted by well-known experts like Daryl D’Monte that the NMIA is a great disaster in the making. Despite the warnings, several governments have moved this project forward. Even today, the criteria for obtaining environmental authorization for this project are far from being met. The promise to create mangrove parks, to compensate for wetland, river and mangrove ecosystems that are already being destroyed in unrecognizable ways only appears on paper. And fears of flooding and other ecological disturbances like the massive migration of wildlife found there are all coming true, with repeated events in the areas affected by the project.
How will this change the whole ecosystem as huge tracts of prime coastal land and mangroves have been taken care of for the development of the green land project?
The above answers are explanatory. We don’t even know what the long-term impact would be when it finally becomes operational. As an impact on pollution, the flow of rivers and bodies of water and streams whose precipitation evacuation system has been massively disrupted.
Kharghar Wetlands and Hills is doing a great job in Mumbai, as the reports suggest, what are some of the main initiatives and actions proposed?
We carry out social awareness activities both on social media and in the field, such as awareness campaigns in schools and villages, bird watching excursions, campaign to clean up natural water bodies and hills, a reforestation campaign, etc. support other groups.
This is outside of building a body of work that includes a scientific list and evidence of flora and fauna found in the wetlands, hills, grasslands and mangroves present in our city. Our members are part of environmental and wetlands committees at district and municipal level formally established in association or by government authorities. We are also actively engaging with agencies such as Maharashtra Forest, BNHS and other similar associations and departments to influence a better outcome for the conservation of the natural environment that the city of Kharghar has been endowed with.
There are viral images of revelers caught in the flash floods at Kharghar Hill, Navi Mumbai. Was it an abnormal accident or did it involve bigger problems?
While these may appear to be weird accidents, they have become so regular and common across the Kharghar Hills that they can be easily linked with serious signs of things to come. Due to the incessant mining of stones on the hills of Kharghar, the slopes became more and more bare with little traction and transmission of groundwater and the action of the sponges that the flora has on the rainwater. . The result is aggressive runoff, causing even more damage to the already fragile rock faces. In addition, the bodies of water and the river system were either reclaimed or obstructed resulting in a sudden build-up of water which on several occasions resulted in the fatal drowning of revelers on these hills, so vast and long that the Police prohibitions are often ineffective. to control access to dangerous parts of these hills.
Problems such as the destruction of mangroves, lakes and wetlands in Navi Mumbai are unduly constant. Residents have brought up the issue frequently, so is there any hope for a tangible result soon?
Our efforts have been underway for quite a long time now that the authorities are becoming aware of some of the citizens who are now on alert. So we want to believe that there are positive results at least in terms of the pressure we seek to exert on the authorities. This includes legal action wherever it is needed, although we do not want to burden an already overburdened justice system any further. We also believe that our actions have led to greater public awareness of at least the flora and fauna present among us, thus leading to indirect moral support for our movements. In fact, it is likely that we have at least succeeded in preventing the powerful builder groups and city authorities from going wild and finishing off what remains of the mangroves, lakes and wetlands of Navi Mumbai. It is a great struggle but one that must be continued with the hope that a lasting balance will be found.
Some media reports suggest that the PMO has asked the ministry to verify the growing threat of bird strikes at Navi Mumbai Airport. Do you see this as a hope?
We often see such announcements only to learn later that they get lost among other priorities. However, we hope that there are bureaucrats in the center and the state who will realize that airport and commercial infrastructure like this is only one aspect of human life and that we must also share this planet. with the other inhabitants of it for our own sustainable future.
Mumbai faces a serious threat to sea creatures, I have read reports of dolphins, whales and porpoises dying on the shores. Is it true ?
The increasing amount of waste that we dump into the seas wreaks havoc on the marine life that lives and comes to our shores in the Arabian Sea. The government’s plans to ban plastics have been quite ineffective. And drains and landfill systems are often clogged due to the enormous non-biodegradable waste that mixes with all the other discharges we dump into the sea on a daily basis. Unless we citizens become more responsible and government agencies become more sincere in their approach, I see only such challenges growing. This is not good for the sea creatures that live in and around the coast of Mumbai.