Thousands of dead fish were found floating in the Panje-Dongri wetlands in Raigad district. Environmentalists claim this is the work of anti-social elements aiming to destroy the wetland’s biodiversity and facilitate land encroachment. Environmentalist Nandakumar Pawar had written to the Collector of Raigad district, Secretary of the Environment Department, Maharashtra Pollution Control Bureau (MPCB), and Panvel sub-divisional officer (SDO) informing them about the incident.

Pawar, also the president of Maharashtra’s small-scale traditional fish workers union, said, “On Tuesday, thousands of dead fish species were seen floating on the water at Panje, Dongri wetlands in urban taluka of Raigad. Some kind of harmful chemicals seem to have been used. People may consume these fish, which will cause health hazards. People need to be prevented from doing so.” Pawar in his email requested that a team be sent immediately to the site to investigate the matter.

The species of fish that were found floating on the water include boi, also known as the Indian white mullet; jitada, also known as Asian seabass; crabs; tilapia; lobsters; etc. “Some people want to encroach on the wetlands and this is the reason why they are finishing the biodiversity,” said Pawar. The Mangrove Foundation and Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS) have already listed six wetlands—Bhendkhal, Belpada, Panje in Uran, NRI, TS Chanakya in Nerul, and the Bhandup pumping station—as satellite wetlands for the TCFS.

Environment lovers have highlighted how Panje has been under attack for several years with the intermittent blocking of tidal water by miscreants. In the past, Pawar had claimed that because of this the migratory bird population, which used to be 2.5 lakh, has drastically dwindled. The TCFS Management Plan 2020-2030 lists the water bodies of Bhendkhal, Belpada, NRI, and TS Chakankya, apart from Panje, (plus Bhandup in Mumbai) which ought to be maintained as the satellite wetlands of the sanctuary.