Anand Pendharkar: SoBo has a secret garden

Some of the rare trees you can find here are the Mesua ferrea, fern tree. Kanak champa and Varun. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Some of the rare trees you can find here are the Mesua ferrea, fern tree. Kanak champa and Varun. Pic/Suresh Karkera

When considering places to spend the weekend, a majority of Mumbaikars look up sales and events announced by some mall or business conglomerate. A miniscule percentage of the non-consumeristic population even considers a retreat to some local wilderness area. Hill stations such as Khandala, Matheran, Lonavla or the forests of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, along with the beaches of Juhu and Girgaum, are among the top favourite nature destinations. However, these typical locations are overrun by tourists and tend to become unbearable after a point due to the shoulder-rubbing crowds. But, you would be surprised to find a whole string of public gardens and green spaces tucked away in various parts of Mumbai.

In the seven-island city, almost at the end of Mumbai, lies the green sprawl of the Sagar Upvan or BPT garden, a great alternative to escape the hoards of local and international tourists and rejuvenate without chaos. One can lay a wager that the majority of the SoBo crowd is unaware of this tidy little park in the Colaba precincts. Spread over 14 acres, Sagar Upvan is a beautiful public garden near the Colaba bus depot, converted from a dumping ground, just like the Maharashtra (Mahim) Nature Park. Thanks to the efforts of the Bombay Port Trust and the World Wide Fund for Nature, a garden was conceptualised on the reclaimed land around 15 years ago.

The park is a delight for photographers and botanists as it boasts of numerous rare and exotic botanical specimens and trees, which are labelled bilingually. Some of the rare trees you can sight here are the Mesua ferrea, the fern tree, Alexandrian laurel, Kanak champa, Varun or Vayvarna, Honduras’ mahogany, Parkia biglandulosa and the traveller’s palm tree. The huge diversity of butterflies and birds seen in the park adds to the charm of the flora. Its location, overlooking the sea and dotted with benches, encourages groups of senior citizens to relax and socialise here. The undulating lawns are equally welcoming and toddlers and their parents find it an ideal ground to have a relaxing family time. However, food, beverages and sports equipment are strictly prohibited inside the garden complex.

The garden has neatly paved walkways, which allow the earth to breathe and absorb water. Morning (6-11 am) and evening walkers (4.30-8pm) hog these paths at a nominal price, completely oblivious to the varied floral rarities in their midst.

The highlight of this garden is its many sections, such as the rockery, Japanese and cacti gardens, seashore point, ficus or palm sections and plant nurseries. The cacti garden is a must-visit section, situated inside a glass enclosure and containing an amazing assortment of cacti, some of which even flower. The seashore point overlooks the Colaba bay and lets you enjoy the breeze and soak in the peace. But, the prime attraction of this garden is the magnificent view of the port and the naval yards. A climber-clad sewage recycling plant located inside the garden ensures sufficient water supply for the garden plants. This plant not only reduces pollution, but is also an economical option, rather than piped or tanker water.

The unique dead-end location of Sagar Upvan, at the tip of SoBo has ensured a silent, honking-free environment which people of all age groups, including disabled persons can enjoy. So, hope you experience this green pocket over this weekend.

Write to Anand at sproutsenvttrust@gmail.com

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