Surely a rose by any other name...
That ugly sentence has reared its head again: “CIDCO had taken a stand that technically, there are no wetlands in Navi Mumbai. These plots look like wetlands but are artificially created because of non-use of land.” The statement first surfaced two years ago, attributed to a former Cidco chief. Since then, clouds of flamingoes have continued to migrate to these ‘non-wetlands’. Flowers have continued to bloom along their edges; tiny aquatic creatures to breed in their waters.
All that while, the concrete rim has been inching steadily forward. Soon, that creep will stop, as a green golf course fills one of the ‘non-wetlands’.
It has broken my heart to see this region change. First there was the planned SEZ, then the new airport. To see a wetland filled in for a golf course seems like a fitting end to this ecologi- cal tragedy.
It would be bad enough if the decades of change and progress were measured, debated, decisions taken sparingly and with respect for our rich natural heritage. Instead, it is random, feels knee-jerk and relentless. To call these living, breathing spaces ‘wastelands that were mistakenly classified as wetlands’ is to take ourselves even further from Nature than we already are.
Where does this road lead? We’ve had flash floods in Uttarakhand, devastating flooding in Kerala, our own monsoon tragedy repeated annually. We are off-balance, and we know it. Yet the concrete continues to creep.
Why talk of incorrectly labelled wetlands, when we know that so many undebatable wetlands were filled in to create our concrete jungle? Doesn’t it make more sense to protect any that remain, regardless of their origins or official tag?
We have lost acres of mangroves, vast kilometres of river bank. The varied wetland ecosystems we once had are gone. And here is something that works, that supports life and is a haven of balance. Why not leave it alone?
I pray that the activists prevail and the courts protect this stupendously bird-rich setting, with its delicate ecosystem, picturesque beauty, and even more critically, its crucial status as part of our defence against climate-related threats.
A golf-course over wetlands, ‘real’ or not, is the ultimate misadventure.
(Sunjoy Monga is a naturalist, photographer and author of numerous books on biodiversity)
Shouldn’t we just protect any wetlands we have left, regardless of their official tag or status?