Vijay Singh, Times of India, February 2 2018
NAVI MUMBAI: The final report of the Baseline Survey of Birds around the proposed Navi Mumbai Airport by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has firmly suggested that the surviving wetland areas where thousands of local and migratory birds can be seen, must be protected in order to ensure that air disasters like ‘bird hits’ do not occur when the airport becomes operational.
The executive summary of the BNHS bird study spanning a period of 60 months, has clearly stated that the remaining wetlands such as at TS Chanakya and behind the NRI Complex (Seawoods Estate) along Palm Beach Road, and the Funde-Panje mudflats in Uran must be strictly protected as important bird habitats in order to minimise the risk of bird hits at the Navi Mumbai International Airport.
“These are the only areas left for birds to roost during high tide, outside the proposed airport zone. In the absence of such measures, there is a high risk of birds congregating on open runways and spaces of the proposed airport area, which may result in bird hazard problems,” stated the final report of the BNHS bird study, which was recently presented to Cidco, the nodal agency in-charge of the Navi Mumbai airport project.
The study has informed that ‘Near Threatened’ congregatory species like the Lesser Flamingos and Eurasian Curlews were noticed to move away from the seashore to the mentioned three inland wetlands (TS Chanakya, NRI Complex, Funde-Panje) during high tide.
The movement of these tidal birds is very high during high tide, and they congregate at these inland sites to feed and rest.
“During 2012 to 2016, on average we used to count 40,000 to 50,000 birds in a single day and the maximum number of birds counted were about 100,000 on a single day,” stated the BNHS report, and further stressed that in the winter months from October-November to April-May, the bird numbers were much more due to the presence of winter migrants. Hence, utmost care has to be taken during high tide and winter months to avoid bird hit calamities.
Reacting to this final bird study report, environmentalist Debi Goenka of Conservation Action Trust (CAT) commented: “The site chosen for the Navi Mumbai airport is an environmental disaster. It is also a huge safety risk since the airport is surrounded by bird rich habitats on all sides. As the BNHS report reveals, there is a huge risk of bird strikes. It is therefore quite certain that no airline will use the airport that poses a serious risk to passengers and aircraft. It is imperative that the CM and the PM review the location of this proposed International Airport before any more public funds are wasted on destroying the environment at this site.”
Stalin added that even in this proposed golf course case, the BNHS has stated that this wetland must not be changed into a gold course or a clubhouse, as it will affect the birds seen here.