23.10.2015

Protected area in the Indian megacity of Mumbai

Group of flamingos in water

Flamingos. Photo: Wetlands International, Bakary Kone

Biodiversity studies of Thane Creek, located east of the centre of Mumbai, were conducted with the support of an International Climate Initiative (IKI) project of Germany's Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. These studies paved the way for India's recent decision to protect the wetland and mangrove forests along the banks of Thane Creek.

Between November and May, up to 30,000 flamingos seek out the delta, which is located in the direct catchment area of Mumbai with its 23 million inhabitants. The impressive birds are able to find enough food in the mangrove forests and adjacent sandbanks. About 200 other bird species have also been seen in the wetland. Rare terns, herons and osprey nest here not far from the metropolis of Mumbai, one of the country's key economic centres. But the delta is also invaluable to migrating birds. The studies on biodiversity conducted with German support applied international criteria to establish which species are in danger of extinction, such as the greater spotted eagle.

The new conservation area covers 1,690 hectares, half of which is made up of mangrove forests and the rest of sandbanks and bodies of water, thereby creating the second largest nature reserve in the Indian state of Maharashtra. It will be closely monitored to prevent the discharge of sewage or dumping of waste. Tourists, scientists and nature enthusiasts can continue to visit and enjoy the flamingo sanctuary. Access, however, will be restricted so as not to disturb the birds. Cooperation with the local population and consideration of their interests is one of the aims of the IKI project 'Sustainable Management of Coastal and Marine Protected Areas'.

Ecosystems along coastlines are among the most species-rich in the world. In India, there are about 7,500 kilometres of coastlines that also provide the livelihoods of several million people. Increasing industrialisation and rapid population growth is exerting growing pressure on these habitats. Global warming is endangering them as well. The German-Indian IKI project for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity focuses on participatory models for preserving ecologically valuable coastal areas. A network of protected areas in India is designed to preserve biodiversity in future. Thus far there are 661 protected areas, accounting for nearly five per cent of the country's land area.

At the beginning of October, Germany and India agreed to expand cooperation on climate change mitigation and biodiversity.