The last few weeks have seen a total devastation of one of the biggest extents of wetland tracts & mangroves in this part of the country. The place ‘Uran’, about 60 km from Mumbai, was a vast stretch of beginning from the northern end of Palm Beach Road in Navi Mumbai, up to Funde village, past the JNPT police Station.
Uran was home to around 200 species, including migratory birds. Not less than an estimated 75 species would be breeding there. First breeding record of several bird species had been found there in the last 5 years eg the black breasted weaver birds, a species which was found breeding in the region after 52 yrs. Several of the IUCN Red Data status bird were regularly wintering there. Many of the species fall under schedule I & IV of the Wildlife protection act, 1972.
It was a wintering area for many bird species, including several Critically Endangered, Vulnerable and Near-threatened species.It was an important stopover for several passage migrant birds that came in from as far as Europe, Central Asia and the Arctic Tundra. Many bird ringing studies have been conducted by senior ornithologists which prove this fact. Uran was also home to other endangered species like the monitor lizard.
As a matter of fact, it is surprising that Uran is not yet classified as an Important Bird Area despite its richness and numbers of birds. In fact, it should be proposed for the same, more so since our govt has pledged to conserve wetlands in the country.
Other than birds, four species of mangrove associates were also found at Uran. Seven terrestrial plant species including the Gloriosa superba i.e. Glory lilly, which is an endangered plant species according to IUCN criteria were also observed.
Under the project of Navi Mumbai Special Economic Zone (NMSEZ) and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust - Special Economic Zone (JNPT-SEZ) extensive reclamation of wetlands in Dronagiri and JNPT has taken place. Dumpers at the rate of 25 trucks per minute have been pumping sand & debris from nearby mountains. Many areas demarcated for development of SEZs also happen to be fragile ecosystems & fall under CRZ I. Due to reclamation of wetlands, mangroves and mudflats the food supply of birds - the aquatic invertebrates - were being killed. One needs to realise that humans will also be affected by the reclamation, and the recent heavy floods in Mumbai due to the Mithi river is an example. Had Mumbai’s Mithi river and Mahim creek mangroves not been destroyed by builders, fewer people would have died and the property damage would have been dramatically less.
There have been geological studies indicating the fragility of Uran. Uran region is prone to large scale erosion due to its geological formations. Under these conditions the viability of the SEZ itself is highly questionable. If landfilling by various entities, which is going on for years, remains unchecked, not only will the ecology of the place be disturbed, but Uran, the largest breeding ground for several migratory and resident birds, will be destroyed forever, not to mention the danger of cyclones & other ecological disasters for Mumbai.
We need to stop extensive reclamation of wetlands in Uran & move the proposed SEZs to another site, which is not ecologically senstive. All is not lost yet. Mangroves are a resilient species & can be revived. If the dumping is stopped & trenches are dug with plantation of some mangrove plants & seeds, 1-2 monsoons will restore the place. PLEASE HELP US SAVE URAN!
See this link to see for yourself, what this place was & what it has become today.