'Where Will Flamingos Go? I Visited Navi Mumbai's Wetlands, Now Turned Barren'

The wetland looks like a parched land, and the number of flamingos arriving has declined in the last three years.
Atharv Unhale
My Report
Published:

Decline in number of flamingos at Seawoods, Navi Mumbai.

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(Image courtesy: Altered by The Quint)

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Decline in number of flamingos at Seawoods, Navi Mumbai.</p></div>
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The NRI-Seawoods Wetland is an innocuous water body in the upscale neighbourhood of Seawoods and Palm Beach Road in Navi Mumbai. It is a roosting site for migratory birds like flamingos, and the municipal corporation makes sure you know about it. As per a survey conducted by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Mumbai witnessed over 1.33 lakh flamingos, the highest number, during the winter of 2021-22. But researchers are worried about a decline that is being seen this year.

According to another survey done by the BNHS, four of the six flamingos they had placed GPS tagged appear to be still in the Gujarat region, they have not yet arrived in Mumbai.

"This is despite the fact that the condition for the mud-lands (from where they get their food) is the same as last year," said Mrugank Prabhu, a researcher at the BNHS.

The survey is ongoing and will give us the difference in the number of flamingos arriving this year.

These wetlands acts as roosting space for migratory birds that come to the city between December and April. It was also in the news during the COVID-19 lockdown, lakhs of flamingos arrived here in April 2020.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the wetland looked like a water body that offered shelter to flamingos.

This year, however, the wetland looks like a parched land, and citizens say the number of flamingos arriving has been the lowest in the last three years.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the wetland looked like a water body that offered shelter to flamingos.

This year, however, the wetland looks like a parched land, and citizens say the number of flamingos arriving has been the lowest in the last three years.

The wetland faces threats from landfilling and intensive fishing. It is also overcrowded because of spectators and birdwatchers. Landfilling, reclamation, and modifications for fishing may also displace the birds from this wetland and force them to go inland wetlands.

I met a photographer at the site, and he said he is concerned that this wetland will soon be lost to reclamation.

“When I come here these days, I see children spotting birds with their tiny binoculars. I wonder, these kids will probably witness the wetland disappear and lose this beautiful ecology. It is sad to read news on climate change and ecological destruction,” he said with deep remorse.

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Flamingos need an ideal level of water for roosting when not feeding, and wetlands, like the one in Seawoods, offer that. Mumbai has seen flamingos visiting the city and the surrounding metropolitan region since the 1990s.

To know more about this, I spoke to Prabhu, a researcher from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), who helped me understand the coastal ecology of Mumbai and the importance of conserving these wetlands.

"Due to excessive and unplanned development in the city, the mangroves cannot grow backwards. As a result, the new growth is moving forwards and encroaching on the mudflats and shrinking waterways. This interaction of coastal and urban ecosystems poses a great challenge and forces us to re-examine our traditional understanding of conservation. We cannot just sit back and let nature take its course. We have gone beyond that. We need active management," said Prabhu.

When we look at this wetland, we cannot look at it in isolation. It is part of a complex puzzle that needs to be managed and conserved.

If we take no action, this wetland might become another myth in the pantheon of climate change.

(The author is a final-year journalism student, studying at Symbiosis Centre for Media & Communication. All ‘My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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