Slum dwellers turn Silence Zone at SGNP into all-night Navratri party
For nine Navratri nights, core area of Sanjay Gandhi National Park turns into disco zone, with DJ, loud speakers and dhols. Silence Zone rules that protect rare wildlife violated brazenly
It’s not just the mushrooming slums inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park, but the usage of loudspeakers inside the park boundary on the western periphery during the ongoing navratri celebrations, that is also an issue now. What is surprising, is the fact that the forest department officials seem to be ignoring this issue, noise pollution.
On Tuesday, dandiya revellers within the park boundary near Kandivli Lokhandwala danced way past midnight
Environmentalists and activists feel that if it is not controlled now, it will start a trend, which will be difficult to halt in the future. mid-day was informed by the locals staying in Kandivli-Lokhandwala area that in the name of a festival, people staying in the slums inside the periphery of the park adjacent to the locality have been playing loud music.
The slum pockets inside the national park have a DJ playing during the nine-day festival, with music blaring from loudspeakers. The fancy lights and decoration are part of the festivities
They have DJs, a music system, dhols and loud speakers and the music allegedly goes on till late in the night. The residents of the area who did not wish to be named said they have been facing noise pollution from Ganpati and the same has increased during the navratri festival.
The calls made to the Forest Department control room have not helped much, alleged the local residents. The residents have even sent mid-day the GPS location of the area where these activities are on in full swing, along with pictures and videos from the place.
The slums have been mushrooming in the core area of the national park for years
‘Why no action?’
A resident said, “We completely agree that people have the right to celebrate the festival but while doing so, they should see to it that they are not causing any inconvenience to anyone. Usually police come to the societies in the area, if someone uses the loudspeakers beyond prescribed limits.
This is really a good thing because rule is the same for everyone. But I am shocked because the slums that are there inside the boundary of the park, adjacent to the Kandivli-Lokhandwala, use loudspeakers till late in the night and no one stops them.
We can understand that the police could say they can’t take action because noise pollution is taking place in the jurisdiction of forest department. But are the forest department officials sleeping or deliberately not taking action?”
The area inside the SGNP boundary, on the western periphery of the park, has many illegal slum pockets, that have mushroomed over the years and the authorities from the forest department have been also trying to curb this encroachment problem, but the attempts have not been much successful.
There have been demolition drives that have taken place at the various locations between Dahisar and Malad inside the boundary of the park in last two to three years at regular intervals.
It had been observed that at many of the slum pockets between Dahisar and Malad, people have been using loudspeakers and drums during festivals despite the area being a silence zone, as it falls inside the national park boundary.
During festivals like navratri the noise pollution becomes more serious, as many slums are on the hill side, where it becomes difficult to take action as the only way to reach there is by walking.
Anyone can enter the park
There is an entry to the forest near the Sapphire Heights building where the forest department even has a barricade. But there is also a narrow path from where one can enter the forest area. At some places, the boundary wall has also been broken down by miscreants.
It was also seen that there are few huts made with the help of bamboo and plastic, and here navratri was celebrated with loud speakers and DJ music systems. What was also surprising, was that no forest official or guard was present at the forest barricade, and anyone could enter the national park.
An FD official who did not wish to be named said, “We do patrol the area round the clock and we ask people to stop the music, as they can’t use loudspeakers in a silence zone and inside a national park boundary.
They even stop when we tell them, but later they start the music again. Nothing much can be done, because the forest is spread across 104 square km and due to limited manpower, and some inaccessible locations which cannot be reached by vehicles, stopping music at all the places becomes difficult.”
Environmentalist Stalin Dayanand from NGO Vanashakti said, “It is disappointing to see wildlife subjected to this torture by noisy revelry by slum dwellers inside the national park. The forest department needs to be proactive and stop this violation.
Wildlife needs the sanctity of the national park to be maintained at all times. This noise pollution inside the park is unacceptable. Subjecting wildlife to high noise pollution levels is completely unacceptable.” Sumaira Abdulali from Awaaz Foundation said, “All national parks in India are silence zones and use of horns, loudspeakers etc, is not permitted as it disturbs wildlife.
Noise of any type is even more stringently restricted after sunset. Some time ago, parties held within the national park in Yeoor were disallowed. If loudspeakers are being used within the park, the Forest Department should confiscate them without delay.”
Chief Conservator of Forests and SGNP Director N Vasudevan said, “I am not aware about this, so I cannot comment on it. All I can say is that I will ask the concerned forest officer in charge of the area to look into it.”
Forest Minister says
Sudhir Mungantiwar, Forest Minister of the state, when contacted to ask about the garba in the core forest area of SGNP, said he was at a function. “I am busy in a dussehra event. I won’t be able to comment on the issue right now,” said Mungantiwar.