Pucca structure crops up inside Mumbai's SGNP; residents question officials

According to the forest guard it is a temporary shed erected by an NGO to keep gardening equipment

An approximately 1-km road and a white, pucca, two-storeyed structure with a garden, has come up overnight on Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) land. And this has got the residents of nearby Lokhandwala Complex in Kandivali worried. 

The structure has a cropped lawn in front of it and the picture of Nanasaheb Dharmadhikari at the entrance. Believing it to be a farmhouse where illegal activities are taking place, residents alerted mid-day. When we asked around many were of the view that it is a forest department office, but on checking with the SGNP official it was evident that the forest department had no inkling about the concrete structure.


People enjoying the calm of Sanjay Gandhi National Park. file photo

Kiran Dabholkar, assistant conservator of forests said, "We do not have any such office there. I think you are talking about the temporary shed erected there by the Nanasaheb Dharm-adhikari Foundation, but that has been there for at least two years."

Citizens refuted these claims, saying the structure is fairly recent. "It is not older than 6-8 months. And why do they need an NGO to do charity for them? Don’t they have enough resources themselves? I’m confident that the structure has come up before our eyes," said Parminder Dureja, a resident of Sapphire Heights.

It was only later that a forest guard clarified that it was an office of the Nanasaheb Dharmadhikari foundation, which does philanthropic work for SGNP. They have been allowed to erect this shed to keep saplings and gardening equipment.

"Its a temporary aluminum structure they have built to keep their saplings and garden equipment. The Foundation has planted at least 15,000-17,000 trees in SGNP in the past few years. They work closely with us. We have not given them written permission to construct anything. We have just allowed them a temporary arrangement for the monsoon." said forest guard Sandesh PatilTo this Manohar Ghanekar, another resident, said, "It all starts with temporary construction like this, which later leads to builders usurping the land. If slum dwellers from Gautam Nagar are not allowed to live there, how can an NGO set up shop there? I demand that the SGNP officials allow us to inspect it."SGNP is Mumbai’s only connection to nature. Spread along the Aarey Colony, this land has been fiercely protected by locals and activists for decades to make sure it does not fall into the hands of builders.

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