MUMBAI: The Karnala Bird Sanctuary will be expanded from the present 1,211 hectares to 1,896 hectares. The sanctuary is home to 140 species of resident and 37 species of migratory birds. Rare birds such as Ashy Minivet, three-toed kingfisher and Malabar Trogon have been sighted here.
On Monday chief minister Devendra Fadnavis approved the recommendation of the advisory board of the State Wildlife Board to expand the Karnala Bird Sanctuary by declaring an adjoining 685 hectares of reserved forest as a sanctuary. “This has been recommended to strengthen the bird sanctuary,” said Sudhir Mungantiwar, state finance minister.
The sanctuary already faces a threat from the proposed expansion of the National Highway – 17 or the Mumbai -Goa highway. The highway passes through the core area of the bird sanctuary. The National Board for Wildlife had approved the widening of the highway provided it was not carried out in the core area.
An area of 10 kms around the sanctuary has been declared as an eco-sensitive area. Another major infrastructure project _ The Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link falls in this zone. Mantralaya sources said there is strong opposition to the link as it would sound the death knell for the Flamingos.
The trans-harbour link would take away the land on which the Flamingos settle. Several international wildlife agencies have strongly opposed the trans-harbour link on this account.
“One of the agencies suggested that if the government were to expand and spruce up the Karnala Bird Sanctuary it would attract more tourists and earn crores through tourism. This idea is now being taken forward,” said sources. The sanctuary currently receives around 1200 to 1500 visitors on weekends.
As per the Maharashtra Gazetteer in Raigad district forests are spread over 674.88 sq miles besides private forests spread over another 471 sq miles. The deciduous trees which form the bulk of the forests contain a large quantity of teak.
Mungantiwar said the government also plans to set up a “Van Vikas Nidhi Fund” on the lines of the Tiger Fund for habitat protection and the protection of 43 endangered bird species.
The money will be raised from the 2% Environment Mitigation Fund that is collected for all Development projects. Mungantiwar said the government also plans to raise awareness so that citizens contribute to the fund, he said.