‘Dadagiri’ @Panje wetland, birder gets death threats

‘Dadagiri’ @Panje wetland, birder gets death threats

December 25, 2021 By The Connect

We can’t remain mute witnesses to attempts to sabotage the biodiversity of Uran, NatConnect Director B N Kumar

NAVI MUMBAI: In a serious blow to the efforts to save CRZ-1 category Panje wetland in Uran, a birder has received death threats from two men who protested against the removal of block to the tidal water flow at the rich biodiversity area.

Green NGOs NatConnect Foundation and Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan have requested Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to step in and check this “Dadagiri” at Panje wetland. “We can’t remain mute witnesses to attempts to sabotage the biodiversity of Uran,” NatConnect Director B N Kumar said.

The incident occurred in the presence of noted environmentalist Debi Goenka, executive trustee of Conservation Action Trust, and revenue officials who were on a visit to the wetland on Wednesday evening to check about firecracker incidents that chase away the migratory birds.

Goenka said in his statement that he noticed that some of the birds looked disturbed. On seeing a wooden block that was kept on one of the tidal water inlets, he got removed by Revenue Circle Inspector Ganesh Goregaonkar.

Angered by this, two local villagers -Tejas Sanjay Gharat, and Pramod Kashinath Gharat - got very angry that the water choke was removed and argued aggressively with the team, Goenka said.

Goenka and others met avid bird watcher Parag Gharat at the site. Tejas and Pramod threatened Parag and “repeatedly told him that they would kill him and bury him” if he continued to take birds’ photographs of the birds and share them with others, Goenka said.

Goenka himself requested revenue officer Deepak Patil to inform the police about the threats. Apart from Goenka’s colleague Dr Shweta Bhatt, two forest guards, Asha Wade of Mangrove Cell Santosh Ingole were also present during the visit.

Describing this incident as a “grave threat” not only to the life of the young wildlife enthusiast but to the cause of environment itself, NatConnect Foundation and Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan have taken it up with the Chief Minister to check this ‘Dadagiri’.

Coming as it did in a series of attempts to sabotage Panje wetland and the biodiversity such as shooing away of media persons, BNHS researchers, blocking of tidal water flow and bursting of fire crackers, the death threat is absolutely serious, said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation.

“Now that we have this solid proof of the threat in the presence of government officials, the police should take suo moto action and punish the culprits,” Kumar said in the mail marked to the Director General of Police, Raigad District Collector and Navi Mumbai Police Commissioner.

Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan (SEAP) said the government must institute a high-level inquiry to find out the masters behind the concerted efforts to thwart all efforts to conserve the wetland.

“These threats are a serious blow to the environmental cause, but would not deter our resolve to fight to save the wetland in the interest of the entire Uran area,” Kumar and Pawar said in their mail to the Chief Minister.

Wetlands serve as urban sponges absorbing flood waters, act as carbon sinks and support a whole lot of biodiversity apart from serving as a source of survival for the fishing community. But certain anti-social elements are hell bent to bury Panje wetland to suit those who want to create a concrete jungle there, the activists pointed out.

In this context, Pawar pointed out that the State government-owned CIDCO had leased out Panje wetland to Navi Mumbai SEZ. The entire 289-hectare contiguous wetland has been earmarked as sectors 16 to 28 by CIDCO in its draft development plan for Dronagiri node.

BNHS has several times pointed out that disturbance to bird destinations would create chaos in the sky and could threaten the flights at the upcoming Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA).

The restoration of tidal water flow, on the orders of the National Green tribunal and due to the environment lover’s continuous efforts, fish and crabs have been found in the wetland in abundance, said Dilip Koli of Paaramparik Machhimar Bachao Kruti Samiti. “This is what the fishing community wants and the vested interests want to scuttle it,” said Koli and argued: “This is an open attack on the fishing community’s Constitutional right and direct attempt to kill biodiversity.”