Navi Mumbai Faces Criticism for Removing Protections from Water Bodies in New Development Plan

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Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) is drawing criticism from local environmentalists for removing protections from ‘protected’ water bodies. This decision is part of NMMC’s new development plan, the first in 33 years, aiming to guide the city’s growth for the next two decades. Critics argue that this change favors the real estate sector.

B N Kumar, Director of NatConnect Foundation, expressed dismay, calling it a “major environmental shock.” He emphasized the importance of wetlands for biodiversity, fishing communities, and water absorption. Kumar recalled suggesting the name “Flamingo City” for Navi Mumbai when initiatives focused on flamingo conservation.

Former municipal commissioner Abhijit Bangar’s attempts to conserve flamingo habitats faced obstacles from the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), according to Kumar. He lamented the decision to remove protections from wetlands, stating it contradicts previous conservation efforts.

Sunil Agrawal, Founder of Save Navi Mumbai Environment Group, shared similar concerns. He criticized the revised NMMC plan for proposing residential towers on wetlands, ignoring their protected status per Supreme Court orders. Agrawal raised worries about the city’s sustainability and liveability due to decisions made without elected representatives.

The Supreme Court’s order from October 4, 2017, emphasized protecting over 2 lakh wetlands, in line with the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) issued a memorandum in March 2022, reinforcing the need to protect wetlands as per the National Wetland Inventory and Assessment (NWIA), 2011.

In response, the affidavit from the Director of Maharashtra State Environment & Climate Control Department to the Bombay High Court claimed only one verified wetland in Thane, including Navi Mumbai. It mentioned ongoing court matters and requested documentation from the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management.

The NMMC development plan, delayed multiple times, aims to address transportation, infrastructure, affordable housing, and overall quality of life. Attempts to reach NMMC officials for comments were unsuccessful, raising serious concerns about the city’s future environmental sustainability.