New plan to conserve Sanjay Gandhi National Park and protect it from poaching
Housing societies situated on the periphery of the national park will be identified and residents be made volunteers to pass on crucial information regarding illegal and suspicious activities in the area to the officials concerned
As part of a new plan to conserve Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and protect it from poaching, forest fires and trespassing, the authorities along with a group of researchers will soon start working on a project — Warriors of SGNP. Housing societies situated on the periphery of the park will be identified and residents be made volunteers to work as the eyes and ears of the park authorities. Their job would primarily be to pass on information regarding illegal and suspicious activities in the park to the officials concerned. The warriors would also be provided camera traps post a short training session so that they can be installed along the park's periphery. This will help them provide information to the authorities daily.
According to forest department officials, the project would be very helpful in the long run, as it would help create a citizen-based network system around SGNP for quick and effective measures. The project is a brainchild of honorary wildlife warden of Mumbai and member of the State Board of Wildlife, Mayur Kamath and his team. Speaking about the project, Kamath said, "The aim of implementing the project is to help the forest department tackle the negative impacts on the national park. The park's periphery will be divided into 10 zones. Each zone will have representatives (volunteers) from housing colonies and padas/hamlets, who will provide information to be acted upon by the concerned assistant conservator of forest (ACF) and range forest officer (RFO). This is just the first phase of the project."
The core team working on the project comprises 10 members, including biologist and researcher Nikit Surve, who has been doing a research on the SGNP leopards. "We have planned objective-based solutions like conducting awareness drives in all the tribal hamlets/padas, housing societies and residential complexes along the park's periphery regarding its bio-diversity and issues related to its conservation," said team member Nitesh Pancholi. Sources said as part of the project, an anti-poaching team comprising ACF, RFO and ground staff would be formed in the coming months, and it would conduct surprise visits to the park and keep a tab on trespassers.
"The team also plans to conduct camera trapping at the entry and exit points. This will also help get information about leopards and other wild animals that roam in the area," said Surve. Kamath said the entire periphery of the park would be divided into 10 zones. "Each zone will be monitored by a co-ordinator chosen from the amongst the team members. Buildings will be selected and added to the database for each zone. In a similar manner groups of people from tribal padas will be selected to update us on suspicious movements in the forest after sunset. The rangers concerned will also be part of the project along with the local honorary wildlife wardens," he added.
He further told mid-day that close to 20 buildings in and around SGNP had already been identified and a WhatsApp group for the purpose had been created. Sources said the core team plans to have a monthly meeting with the representatives of each zone and they in turn would meet the warriors every three months once the project commences.
Part of project plan
- At least 10 awareness sessions will be conducted in different zones
- A database will be created based on the images obtained from people
- Feb 2019 to Feb 2020 — Phase I
- Feb to April — Setting up of team of zone co-ordinators and selecting representatives from each zone.
- May to June — Awareness sessions in selected zones and at housing colonies
- June onwards — Monthly meetings and regular patrolling activities
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