In a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray, NGO Vanashakti has raised the issue of firecrackers being used to scare away birds from Panje wetlands in Uran taluka, and demanded that the violators be arrested.
“In broad daylight, firecrackers are burst regularly at the wetland to scare the birds away. The migratory season will soon begin and this habitat will be lost. This is an offence under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act,” the letter said.
In a video shared by the NGO in their complaint, some people are seen using firecrackers to scare away birds from the wetlands.Spread across 213 hectares and 157 hectares buffer area for migratory bird roosting, Panje holds up to 1,50,000 migratory and resident birds during winters. Environment groups have been petitioning the state environment minister to declare Panje a bird sanctuary.
Activists have also alleged large-scale landfilling over mangroves on the western side of Panje and raised complaints with the state mangrove cell against the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) for blocking the flow of seawater to intertidal forests.
Nandakumar Pawar, from Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, has been raising complaints against the frequent blocking of water inlets to the Panje. Environmentalists said that the use of firecrackers was an illegal act being used to make the area inhabitable.
In October 2019, following complaints submitted to the state mangrove cell, and interventions by the wetland grievance redressal committee, gates were opened up by CIDCO. The state government stated before the High Court that Panje falls under CRZ-1, due to which there can be no construction without the approval of the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority.
The National Green Tribunal in April this year instructed CIDCO to ensure that all tidal water inlets to its 289-hectare property in Uran in Raigad district be opened immediately to ensure flow of seawater to the Panje wetland and its mangrove forests.