The forest department which began removing encroachments inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) from June 1 has taken a break from the demolition drive and begun planting bamboo, jarul, banyan and teak in the cleared areas spanning over 10 hectares. The plantation drive will continue till the end of this month.
Earlier, the decade-old illegal structures along the boundary of the park were to be razed in the first week of May to make way for planting the saplings. However, that could not take place due to strong local and political resistance. So the forest department started planting trees on the 10 hectares, which were cleared of 500 decade-old structures at Sanjay Nagar Malad, Akurli, and Damunagar in the forested areas in Malad (E) since June 1.
“The demolition of illegal structures inside the forest boundary at Dahisar was going to start in May but leaders of political parties had a meeting with officials,” said a senior forest department official, adding, “They demanded that demarcation of forest and non-forest lands be done again. As the process will take a long time, we have begun the demolition in the core forest area.” Officials also stated that demolition work has stopped during the rains, and plantation of trees in the newly-cleared area is being carried out.
Change in demolition plans
In May, over 2,000 people from Dahisar (East) protested in front of the National Park’s gate, demanding that the scheduled demolition drive be postponed. Bit in a meeting between the representatives of political parties and forest department in May, it was decided that the collector would again begin demarcating the forest and non-forest lands in SGNP. But no time period was stipulated for the task.
Residents of Dhar Kadi Ravalpada, Dahisar (East) have been alleging that the survey wasn’t conducted properly. In the meeting, the forest officials made it clear that those living in illegal structures on rent will have to evacuate. The department had also planned to take action against illegal structures from May 2.
The number of illegal structures cleared in SGNP since the beginning of June