A landmark in itself, the city’s historical Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Zoo, also famous as Rani Baug or Jijamata Udyan at Byculla, might be a thing of the past soon.
A consultant appointed by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has recommended shifting of the Byculla Zoo to Aarey Colony in Goregaon or the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivli and turn the current zoo space into a botanical garden instead.
In a presentation on Tourism Development Plan and proposed interventions before the Greater Mumbai Tourism Area Development Committee on June 19, a private consultant recommended shifting the zoo to a suburban area. However, the MTDC has invited suggestions and objections from citizens on the proposal.
Reason for shift
The report states, “Our city today lacks a proper zoo. Locals go to Pune, Bangalore and abroad to show a zoo to their kids.” The report further states that the population growth of greater Mumbai today is six per cent while that in suburbs is 65 to 100 per cent. Hence, a major part of the work force lives in suburbs and greater Mumbai is a commercial hub. “So, we recommend shifting the Jijamata Zoo from Byculla to Sanjay Gandhi National Park or the Aarey Milk Colony.”
According to the report, the zoo was built in 1861 and hence is a botanical heritage. The size of the Byulla zoo is 19 hectares where as the National Park spans across 10,400 hectares, having ample space to construct a world-class zoo. Dr Jagdish Patil, managing director of MTDC, said, “We have invited suggestions and objections over the recommendation and citizens can write on our official website within 15 days starting June 24. We will incorporate all suggestions.” Sitaram Kunte, chairperson of Greater Mumbai Tourism Area Development Committee, was not available for comment on the issue.
Responding to the botanical garden bit, an official from the Garden department responsible for the zoo said, “20,000 people visit the zoo on a daily basis. Children come to see animals and not plants.” Environmentalists too are against the move. Sunish Subramanian founder and secretary of the Plants and Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) said, “The Zoo should be in Byculla.
Though I am against a zoo, I feel it should not be shifted to another place but it should be maintained well, improved and keep in a natural environment habitat. Shifting of the zoo is not a solution.” He also said that this zoo has over a 100-year history and should be in the island city itself.
Other uses of Byculla zoo land
>> Convert it into a botanical garden
>> Jogging track
>> Water bodies can be built around the existing animal pond-picnic spot
>> Botanical research and conservation centre
>> Forest-themed restaurant
>> Library with books on trees and wildlife
>> Information kiosk
>> Events hosted by Bhau Daji Lad Museum