It’s a feel-good moment. The much-disputed Rs 430-crore makeover of the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan popularly known as Rani Baugh, the only zoo in the city, was on Thursday cleared by the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC).
No trees will be cut down and the heritage structures on the 53-acre premises will be protected even as 25 new species of wildlife from three continents will be added to the zoo’s collection of 90 species.
“There is no conflict of interest, we have given our inputs from the heritage point of view,” said chairman of the MHCC Dinesh Afzalpurkar.
The masterplan, drawn up by HKS Designers & Consultants International Co Ltd and US-based landscape designers Portico Group, proposes to replicate the animals’ natural habitat. The other highlights will be a glass enclosed restaurant that will offer a close view of cheetahs, a car park, 14-storeyed residential block for the staff, and a full-fledged hospital for the animals.
According to additional municipal commissioner RA Rajeev, the second phase of the makeover will also focus on design and development of enclosures. “We are trying to preserve all heritage structures. Moreover, we will not cut a single tree.”
The MHCC said the accessible green cover of the zoo should remain intact, the botanical garden should be retained, and the grandeur of the Bhaudaji Lad museum, the clock tower and the temple arch should be kept intact. And it wants the final plan shown to it.
And in a victory for people power, the makeover of the Five Gardens area has been modified to accommodate the wishes of the residents. So the playgrounds won’t be covered with concrete and the heritage character the area will be preserved.
“We are happy that the green cover will be restored but the railing in one garden doesn’t go with the heritage character,” said Rustum Soonawalla, a Parsi colony resident.
Meanwhile, the MHCC did not clear the proposal to redo the traffic island located just opposite the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus on the theme of ‘1857 mutiny’.