Greens win battle as sluice gates open to save wetlands

Vijay Singh, Times News Network, 12 October 2018

Link to the news article

Environmentalists and villagers in Uran are rejoicing as Cidco finally opened all sluice gates on Panje coast to allow seawater to enter mangroves, to preserve the last surviving wetlands of Uran.

Cidco general manager (environment) Pramod Patil told TOI on Thursday, “The Bombay high court-appointed wetlands committee, headed by Konkan divisional commissionerate, today met and decided to allow intertidal seawater to enter the mangroves at Panje. We have opened all 76 sluice gates there.”

Patil added that it was also decided that if there is flooding in Panje during the next monsoon, few sluice gates may be closed to avoid problems.

Environmentalist D Stalin, also a member of the wetlands committee, said, “It is a great development. I had raised objections regarding blockage of seawater, which made the mangroves patch dry. I thank the state forest department (mangrove cell) and Konkan divisional commissionerate for helping the cause of wetlands.”

Naturalist Aishwarya Sridhar, who frequently visits Panje to photograph birds, said, “It is great news. We had been urging the authorities to do this for 10 days, therefore I am truly happy to see it happen. Now, flamingos and other wetland birds will continue to come here.” She thanked BNHS, environmentalist Debi Goenka and forest officials who had written to Cidco last week to open the gates.

“In my letter to Cidco and others, I had mentioned that blocking seawater from entering mangroves with the installation of sluice gates would lead to contempt of court. The latest HC order, following my petition to save mangroves in the state, clearly mentioned that no developmental activities can happen within 50 metres of the mangroves, which are protected forests,” said Goenka.

In the last decade, several marshy areas and wetlands in Uran had been destroyed due to mud-filling to reclaim them. Thus, barely 15% of the wetlands are surviving in the Panje-Funde coastal belt, where flamingos and other birds can still be seen. Environmentalists have been urging the state to declare the region a bird sanctuary to preserve its rich biodiversity.


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