The Centre on Saturday accorded 'Ramsar' status to the sprawling Thane Creek area -- the annual abode of the pink Flamingos -- making it the first Indian wetland site of international importance located within a metropolitan region and the largest of its kind in the state, as per a notification issued on Saturday.
The third Ramsar site in Maharashtra -- Thane Creek -- is spread over an area of 6,521.08 hectares, including 1,691 hectares which turn into a pink riot during the annual migration of these majestic birds. This year, it attracted over 125,000 Lesser Flamingos and Greater Flamingos from Gujarat, Iran and Africa.
The proposal was made last year by the erstwhile Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and sent in February 2022 following a report of the State Mangrove Cell, with the Centre's announcement coming 48 hours before the 75th Independence Day of India.
Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav, made the announcement after the Ramsar Convention conveyed its decision to add 11 new sites on Saturday.
The Ramsar status will attract domestic and global tourists for bird-watching, boost environment conservation efforts and give a fillip to tourism, job opportunities etc., as Thane Creek gets catapulted onto the global tourist map.
The MVA government had said that in the Thane Creek area, along with Flamingos migrating from abroad, other bird species are also attracted, and stressed the need for special importance to this mangrove area from a global perspective.
In October 2021, the state government had sought an area of around 65 sq km in Thane Creek for the Ramsar site, of which 17 km falls in the reserved forest area and the remaining as environmentally sensitive area.
The state has two other Ramsar sites -- the Nandur Madhmeshwar forest in Nashik (8,001 hectares) and the Lonar Lake in Buldhana (427 hectares).
Ramsar sites are wetlands of global significance with the aim to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits.
The first international Ramsar Conference was held in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, which took major decisions on conservation and preservation of global mangroves or wetlands for their environment complementary uses.
As per an action plan decided at the conference, each country was asked to identify globally important mangrove areas and declare them as Ramsar sites, which could include creeks, rivers, lakes, ponds, swamps, seashores or even paddy fields.
India, which became a signatory and one of the Contracting Parties in February 1982, presently has 75 Ramsar sites - the highest in south Asia - covering over 1.33 million hectares, with the maximum 14 in Tamil Nadu, compared to the 244 locations worldwide.
Lauding the development, Virendra Tiwari, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest of Maharashtra's Mangrove Cell, said: "The value of this wetland is now recognised for its contribution to global biodiversity. We are committed to safeguarding this area, administering it in accordance with international standards, and making sure biodiversity is sustained over the long term."
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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