Following a story in MiD DAY which reported that villagers in the tribal hamlets adjacent to Sanjay Gandhi National Park wanted the authorities to construct public toilets to provide them safety from leopards, the forest department on Friday organised a seminar in which officials from the Mumbai and Thane Municipal Corporations were present.
At the seminar, the forest department asked the BMC to construct as many public toilets as possible in tribal hamlets around the park. The issue of picking up garbage from these areas was also discussed.
Speaking to Sunday MiD-DAY, Director and Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) Sunil Limaye said, “The seminar was conducted to educate BMC ward-level officers on what should be done to prevent leopard attacks. The most important issue was the construction of toilets in the tribal areas. People step out in the forest areas to attend nature’s call, and can easily fall prey to wild animals. We have also requested civic officials to ensure the garbage is picked up from these areas on a daily basis. Leopards come to such spots in search of food as dogs and pigs frequent garbage dumps.”
A BMC official from the Mulund ward office said, “We will make sure that garbage is collected from the tribal settlements and slums near the park.”
While rules state that no kind of construction is allowed in the forest area, the presence of tribal hamlets outside the park boundary will make it possible for the authorities to construct toilet blocks.
Leopard expert and founder of the NGO Forest and Wild Life Conservation Centre, Krishan Tiwari, said, “We will start a leopard awareness campaign in areas adjacent to SGNP in which we will also request the residents to not throw garbage in the open.”
The forest department has also suggested that the BMC could provide mobile toilets in areas where construction may not be feasible.