Mumbai in Maharashtra, is the most densely populated metropolis in India, and also the eighth most populous agglomeration in the world. Nestled along the urban jungle in the extreme suburbs, is a dense patch of mangroves at Airoli, Thane creek, which is also home to flamingos and several other migratory and wading birds.
Thane creek is one of the pilot sites in Maharashtra for GIZ’s Indo-German Biodiversity Programme, in partnership with the Forest Department, Government of Maharashtra. The Coastal and Marine Protected Areas project, a part of the Biodiversity programme, supports the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in this rich habitat.
The International Day for Biodiversity was celebrated at the creek along with school children from the neighbouring tribal village of Tansa, local community members and senior government officials from the Forest Department. The event was organised by the Forest department.
The children performed a street play that demonstrated the harmful effect of indiscriminate urbanisation and resultant pollution on the natural environs. Seema, a young girl in class 9, said that she had enjoyed growing up in the unspoilt, green habitat at Tansa, and did not like that the greenery was fast disappearing.
The community members hoped that the GIZ and the Forest department’s initiatives in the area would help conserve the verdant surroundings, which would also contribute to preserving their livelihoods.
Mr. Vikas Kharge, Forest Secretary, who was present at the occasion, congratulated the children on the extremely evocative play. He also thanked GIZ for its continuous support not only at Thane creek, but also for penetrating into remote coastal villages to bring the significance of conservation of biodiversity to the forefront. He hoped that the state government would be able to declare the Thane creek area as a RAMSAR site (wetlands of international importance, under the Ramsar Convention).
Mr. Suresh Thorat, Additional Principal Conservator-Forest, speaking about the partnership between GIZ and the Forest Department, said that he had witnessed such proactive collaboration for the first time in his service of 34 years in the government.
Mr. N. Vasudevan, Chief Conservator-Forests, Government of Maharashtra, was also present, along with other members of the Forest department and the GIZ team.
The event concluded with a boat ride on the river, which enabled a glimpse into the lush avian life that thrives among the mangroves, with Mumbai’s urban skyline on the horizon.