In a freewheeling exclusive chat during his visit to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said he wanted to make the forest an ideal destination for tourists interested in wildlife
If Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar has his way, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) may become a hub for tourists interested in wildlife and forests. During his visit to SGNP on Sunday, the minister instructed the forest department to appoint a consultant for the park to prepare a proper plan to achieve such a target.
Speaking exclusively with mid-day, Mungantiwar said he had a lot of plans in the offing not only for SGNP, but also for national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves in the entire state. “My observation is that many international tourists land in the Mumbai international airport and head to tourist places in other states.
This is because the earlier government did not project Maharashtra and its rich forest and biodiversity the way other states are doing. Our government and my department will make sure we come up with some interesting plans in order to attract more tourists to our national parks and tiger reserves,” he said.
Plans for SGNP
Mungantiwar referred to SGNP’s unique status as one of the few in the world to be inside city limits, and spoke of its tremendous potential in attracting visitors due to its rich biodiversity. The minister also visited the core forest inside SGNP and the famous Log Hut, where Vikas Gupta, SGNP director, gave him a presentation about ongoing projects and future plans.
Mungantiwar told this paper that cracking down on encroachment topped his agenda and authorities have been asked to rein in those who encroach upon forest land. He also discussed the continual man-animal conflicts witnessed on the periphery of the park and inside it.
“We don’t want any incidents of man-animal conflict, and, hence, we are working on proper resettlement and rehabilitation of people staying in the adivasi padas in SGNP. It is on top priority,” he said. Mungantiwar also interacted with the inhabitants of the tribal hamlets inside the forest.
The forest minister expressed his displeasure at the lack of signage inside the forest and said non-operational guesthouses and cement structures would be reconstructed to blend in with the surrounding in terms of colour, shape and structure and be more eco-friendly.
“A necessity in the park is proper signage and information boards, and I have instructed officials to make sure they are installed. I personally feel that the rest houses and non-operational guesthouses here should be redesigned and made in such a way that they resemble the houses in a forest. Instructions for the same have also been given,” he added.
Mungantiwar also said more AC tents would be put up for those wishing to spend a night in the forest, underneath the foliage. The first step, he told this paper, would be to appoint a good consultant to draw up an improvement plan for the park. Then, a makeover of the park would help to attract more visits, he added.
This was Mungantiwar’s second visit to the forest, the first being when he was very young. “SGNP has more than 300 birds, over 1,500 types of trees, more than 800 flowers; people should visit this place. Since this is inside the city, maximum people can come here and enjoy nature.
Foreigners come to Mumbai and leave for Jaipur, Udaipur, etc. We have everything in our city and I will try my best to make SGNP one of the best tourist spots in Mumbai and help in generating jobs,” he stated.