The verdant 37-acre Maharashtra Nature Park (MNP) in Dharavi is being laid to waste, a sackful of scrap at a time. Tonnes of trash have been dumped on a 5-acre plot on the eastern boundary of the woodland, allegedly by neighbouring slumdwellers.
Oh, scrap! Tonnes of trash laid out along the eastern boundary of the Maharashtra Nature Park
The immediate casualty of the rampant dumping has been a drive to plant over 1,200 saplings in the nature park.
The trash comprises empty glass bottles, rags and plastic waste. Sources say over 90 truckloads of it will have to be removed to clear the land.
Some local traders of a nearby slum in Prem Nagar have allegedly turned the MNP plot into a scrap storage. Scrap material is often re-sold in flea markets. Despite the evident encroachment, no authority is taking up the responsibility to clear the land.
Need long-term solution
Avinash Kubal, deputy director of MNP, says the nature park authorities are at their wits’ end over finding a solution to the problem. “Planting trees and giving a green cover to the city is high on our agenda. During a drive carried out along with the forest department last week, over 1,200 trees could not be planted as the entire area resembles a huge dumpyard. The land has to be cleared by the MMRDA (which developed the nature park). We do not have the adequate manpower or machinery do this. We only take care of plantation drives. Besides, there is the issue of providing security to clear the debris. This will have to be sorted out with the help of the police.”
Urvinder Pal Singh Madan, metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA, says increasing security in the nature park to fend off encroachers will only be a short-term solution. “In addition to the existing fence, which has been broken in several places, we had recently put up tin barricades to prevent slumdwellers from entering the nature park. But, these too have been damaged. We now plan to construct a solid wall, but that can begin only after the monsoon.”
He assures that the trash from the premises will be cleared out soon.
MNP used to be a massive dumpyard
The MNP, created out of a massive landfill, is not just a green getaway amongst the concrete jungle of Mumbai, but is also a centre for promoting environmental awareness. It has recorded close to 300 varieties of plants, and thanks to evergreen mangrove forests, 115 species of birds. It also hosts about 100 species of butterflies.
It was used as a dumping ground by the civic body for decades before the idea of turning it into a nature park began to take shape in the late 1970s. It was thrown open to the public on April 22, 1994. Today, experts from around the world visit the MNP to study its flora and fauna.