It is not enough to have Facebook pages and car stickers about the environment. Saving our natural resources means taking action on the ground.
The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) authorities have decided to do just that. In order to actively involve residents of villages on the park periphery in the process of forest conservation, the park authorities have started eco-tourism in form of nature trails near these villages.
Not only will this be an educational initiative, the revenue generated from this will be shared on a 50-50 basis between the Forest Department (FD) and the village pancahayats. The project has been started on pilot basis at Nagla block in Vasai area near Ghodbunder.
Speaking to MiD-DAY, SGNP Director and Chief Conservator of Forest Sunil Limaye said, “If we really want to save the forest then there should be active participation from the villagers staying around the forest, and so we have started the nature trail initiative at Nagla. The income that will be generated from this initiative will be shared on a 50-50 basis between the FD and villagers.”
The FD has constructed a Nature Information Center (NIC) at Nagla in Vasai District adjacent to SGNP, at a cost of around Rs 25 lakh. “The NIC will be open to the public every Saturday and Sunday between 7.30am and 11.30am, and a nature trail between Sasupada and Nagla Bunder will be organized for nature lovers at Rs 100 per person. The trail will be led by a resource person who will tell participants about the SGNP and Nagla, and its importance to Mumbai. The resource person will also give information about the species of trees and plants, as well as animals, which are found in SGNP and Nagla. Once the programme becomes more successful, we intend to create more ecotourism-related employment opportunities for the people staying in the villages near Nagla. The initiative will also help in educating the villagers about the importance of forest conservation,” said Yeoor Range Forest Officer (RFO) Sushant Salgaonkar.
The main motive behind starting the ecotourism activity is to help local villagers in understanding the importance of saving the forests. The officials also believe that wood-cutting will stop because of this initiative. “People used to cut wood from the forest to use as firewood, but now they don’t do it as we have provided around 206 houses with LPG gas cylinders at a subsidized rate through a government scheme,” added Salgaonkar.
The revenue generated from the initiative will be deposited in the gram panchayat’s savings account every month, with a yearly audit to ensure that it is being used for development purposes in the village.
The SGNP authorities have already made a development plan for other villages around SGNP and Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS) where ecotourism will be developed so that more tourists and nature and wildlife lovers can visit these places. Work on the NIC at Yeoor in Thane has already been completed, and similar types of trails will be started there, too. The construction of the NIC at two places in Tungareshwar and at one place in Kaman Durg is already in progress and once the work is complete, similar initiatives will be started at these places which will result in employment opportunities for local villagers as well as spread more awareness.
Nagla Block is a pristine patch of nature with a unique and fragile ecosystem consisting of mixed ever green deciduous forest along with mangrove forests, forming a paradise for botanists, ornithologists and marine biologists. It is located in Thane district.
Venue: Sasu Pada (Marine Information Centre) Thane (W) Tehsil Vasai after Fountain Hotel on Mumbai-Ahmedabad Express Highway. The landmark is Sasu Pada.
Timings: 7.30am until 11.30am
7-7.15am onwards - Assemble at Sasu Pada (Forest Gate)
7.25am: Introduction / briefing
7.30am: Follow the nature trail
11am: Discussion on sightings
11.30am: Back to Forest gate
Total area covered: Approximately 6km
Cost of the trek: Rs 100 per head
Cost includes entry fees, programme fees, resource person
Things to carry: Water bottle, snacks, cap, mosquito repellent, rain wear, camouflaging clothes (avoid dark and bright colours) binoculars, and camera if interested.
Note: Avoid using non-bio-degradable materials and do not litter. For bulk registrations / enquiries, contact Krishna Tiwari at 9870785006. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Nearest stations: Mira Road and Bhayander.
Mode of transport: The best way to reach Nagla is by a taxi or an autorickshaw. By road it takes around 30-40 minutes to reach Nagla from Mira Road and Bhayander.