A baseline survey has shown that there are 266 bird species within 10km radius of the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport site throughout the year.
The survey , conducted by experts from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) in 2014-15, has led many to ask if bird hits would be a concern when flights take off and land.But naturalist and author, Sunjoy Monga, said, “There is no danger to flights as a majority of the bird species seen here are the grassland variety . Only a few high-flying species like raptors are seen here but that is the case at most airports in the country . So there is no harm in having an airport here.“
The survey states: “The proposed airport is coming in a high bird diversity area because of a mixture of habitats such as creeks, seashore, paddy fields, forest, inland wetlands and mangroves. Even the runways are proposed to be developed parallel to the creeks flowing adjacent to the airport area. The BNHS has concerns over human life and we want to avoid bird strikes at the aiport site. Therefore, attempts should be made to make the site and adjoining areas non-attractive to birds. However, there is need to provide conservation offsets by developing agency to establish bird sanctuaries on coasts and mangroves, away from the influence of air traffic.“
The report further states: “Instead of creating some protected areas as mangrove park nearby the airport site, we suggest the authorities concerned should protect potential areas as shown in the study map, outside the airport influence region. This will help in managing the nearby landscape and to avoid bird strikes. It would be interesting to study the long-term impact of rapidly changing environment on the birds and correlate it with the status of birds in their breeding grounds. It will give an idea about how particular species is doing at local as well as global level. Movement of birds within the airport influence zone would be a concern considering air safety .“
ABNHS spokesperson said, “This is an ongoing survey . For details, contact Cidco.“ A Cidco spokesperson said that they cannot comment on the issue.
Environmentalist Debi Goenka of Conservation Action enka of Conservation Action Trust, said, “The safety of flyers and birds is paramount. It cannot be compromised. The airport site is a wetland, surrounded by many other bird rich habitats. We have thousands of birds flying across and around the proposed airport site. This is completely unacceptable from the safety point of view .The proposed airport needs to be relocated to an alternative site near Kalyan.“
Activist Sumaira Abdulali of NGO Awaaz Foundation said, “From the very beginning, it felt odd to have runways so close to the mangroves and wetlands. There is so much biodiversity here; even the Karnala Bird Sanctuary falls within 10km radius of the site. For the sake of environment, it will be better to have an airport away from this bird-rich area.“