Mumbai: SGNP garden can be turned into a parking lot, but conditions apply

Before giving its final approval, environment ministry wants park officials to do compensatory afforestation on two-hectare degraded forestland in Malad and maintain it for at least seven years

After receiving flak from activists and common man alike, for authorising a slew of developmental projects passing through forests and eco-sensitive locations, it looks like the Ministry of Enviro-nment and Forests (MoEF) has decided to tread with extreme caution before passing new projects.

Krishnagiri garden is located near the SGNP’s main gate and is a huge hit among morning and evening walkers
Krishnagiri garden is located near the SGNP’s main gate and is a huge hit among morning and evening walkers

It has been learnt that even though the ministry has issued in-principle approval for converting Krishnagiri garden inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) into a parking area, the final approval comes with a rider. In a letter sent to the Principal Secretary Revenue and Forest Department on July 10, the MoEF has asked the authorities to plant trees on a two-hectare degraded forested patch at Malad and upkeep it for at least seven years. Once these conditions are met, only then the final approval to convert the garden (0.99-hectare) into a parking lot would be issued.

It was the park authorities who recommended the Malad plot. The letter also points at the deterioration of the forest cover in the recent years, especially due to the mushrooming encroachment along the park’s periphery.

More than three years ago, the then Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) Sunil Limaye had initiated an anti-encroachment drive to rid the park of squatters. However, naturalists claimed, the intensity of the drive fizzled out after Vikas Gupta took over as the CCF of SGNP following Limaye’s transfer.

Official speak
“We have received an in-principle approval from the MoEF and we have already identified a location where the compensatory afforestation will be done.

Post-monsoon, pits will be dug for planting trees and care will be taken so that they grow properly,” said Vikas Gupta, Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF), SGNP. When asked when would the actual project start, Gupta said the parking area would be operational in the next five months.

It should be noted that the MTDC would be providing battery-operated buses for ferrying visitors inside the park, and both the parties will share the revenue. The eco-friendly buses will ferry visitors to tiger safari and Kanheri caves, and drop visitors midway if asked for.

Highlights of the letter
>> The “legal status of the forestland shall remain unchanged” 

>> Compensatory afforestation shall be taken up by the forest department on two-hectare degraded forestland (survey no 239) village at Malad, Borivali Taluka, SGNP Mumbai, at the cost of user agency 

>> It will be a mix of local and indigenous species 

>> The cost of afforestation scheme, including cost of survey, demarcation and erection of a boundary wall shall be done and the money for maintaining it for the period of seven years should be deposited

A popular hotspot
The garden, which the SGNP officials want to develop into a parking lot, was developed over a year ago and was inaugurated by the then Forest Minister Patangrao Kadam. The ex-minister had then heaped praises on the park authorities for their efforts and the landscaping work at the garden.

Built at a cost of Rs 10 lakh, the garden has now become a hotspot for morning and evening walkers. Besides hosting numerous species of trees and flowering plants, it is a huge hit among butterfly lovers.

Voices

Ravi Lot, Goregaon resident
The garden was opened just a year ago. It is shocking to hear that it will be converted into a parking area. The authorities should have searched for an alternative because the garden is a huge hit among morning and evening walkers. Besides, it hosts several plant, bird and butterfly species.

Bharat Sardar, a frequent visitor
Can’t believe that such a beautiful garden will be converted into a parking lot. However, the decision to ban private vehicles inside the park is welcomed. This will help quell noise and air pollution and accidents inside the park. A total ban on private cars will avert such incidents.

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