Why does Thane Municipal Corporation want to build biodiversity park inside SGNP?

Updated: Nov 21, 2017, 11:06 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav | Mumbai

In a bizarre proposal, TMC wants to build a biodiversity park inside the SGNP, which is already teeming with flora and fauna; critics allege this is just a ploy to gobble up land

City's green cover needs to run for cover, it's not safe. The latest target is none other than the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which acts as a carbon sink for Mumbai. The Thane Municipal Corporation has come up with a bizarre plan to make a biodiversity park in the already biologically rich SGNP, and for that it wants a pristine forest patch in the Yeoor range. The 11-hectare patch is equivalent to 15 football fields. Wildlife experts have slammed the idea and said there's no need for such a park in an area that is already rich in biodiversity.

The portion that the TMC wants falls in the core forest area. File pic
The portion that the TMC wants falls in the core forest area. File pic

The SGNP, which is also known as Borivli national park, is one of the highest visited national parks in the world and is among the few unique ones that exist within busy metropolises. It has 800 varieties of flowering plants, 284 types of birds, 5,000 types of insects, 36 species of mammals, 50 kinds of reptiles and 150 species of butterfly. Spread across 103 sqkm, it has one of the highest densities of leopards in the world. And despite such a rich and famed biodiversity, the TMC wants a large section of the forest for its grand scheme.

Initial but worrying stages
"TMC has approached SGNP and requested for 11 hectares of land in the Yeoor range, where it plans to develop a biodiversity garden. The discussions are in the initial stages, and the TMC will have to take permission from the state wildlife board and National Board for Wildlife," said Divisional Forest Officer P B Bhalekar.

About two weeks ago, senior civic officials had met senior SGNP officials and discussed the topic. During the meeting, SGNP officials had explained to TMC officials about the permissions they would have to secure for constructing the biodiversity park. What's shocking is that the portion where TMC plans to set up the park falls in the core forest area.

When questioned about this, a senior SGNP official said, "As TMC is a government body, we don't have the power to reject its plan. When its proposal reaches the higher level in the government, it will be asked about the enrichment it plans to do in an area that's already rich in biodiversity. Based on this, permissions might be given or rejected. We will submit a detailed report on what our stand is."

TMC sources told mid-day that the land required for the park used to have illegal hutments on it, which the SGNP had cleared. A regular trekker from the area said, "There are many encroachments in the Yeoor range, which the authorities should clear; and if at all they want to develop the biodiversity park, they should do it on that land and not the land that has good forest cover."

They are not happy
Nature lovers, trekkers, wildlife experts and environmentalists are most definitely not happy with the idea and feel that rather than planning a biodiversity park in the core forest area of Yeoor range, the TMC should construct it on land in its jurisdiction.

Dr Anish Andheria, conservation photographer and president of the Wildlife Conservation Trust, said, "There is no need for a biodiversity park inside SGNP. The forest department's main purpose is protection; it should disallow such activities, as its mandate isn't revenue generation or development."

"When you have the SGNP, a biodiversity hotspot, there is absolutely no need to carve something out from it for a biodiversity park. If TMC is indeed serious about developing such a park, it should develop one on a plot it owns in the city limits. Perhaps, it could consider allocating some land for this park instead of real estate development," said Conservationist and Director, The Corbett Foundation, Kedar Gore.

Civic speak
While Thane Municipal Commissioner Sanjeev Jaiswal was unavailable for comment, NCP leader and Leader of Opposition in the TMC Milind Patil said, "We have heard about the plan of setting up a biodiversity park in the Yeoor range, but it has not yet been discussed with us. Only after seeing the plan we will state our stand."

"If TMC wants to construct the park in Yeoor, it should make it on land that gets vacant after resettlement and rehabilitation of the encroachers. The park should not be made on any portion of forest that has tree cover and other biodiversity," he added.


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Project details
The detailed project note submitted to the MoEF&CC in April for forest clearance stated that the project would create a new tourist point in Thane city and provide employment to the locals. "It will spread awareness of forest conservation and information on biodiversity among the locals as well as tourists. There won't be any new cement concrete structure in the proposed project. Existing structures, like forest quarters, will be used," it added.

11 Ha
Area of the forest patch TMC has sought

5k
Types of insects

800
Varieties of flowering plants

284
Types of birds

150
Species of butterfly

50
Types of reptiles

36
Species of mammals

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