The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) has stationed lifeguards and boats at a pond used for Ganesha idol immersions after crocodiles were sighted in it.
“This is the first year that we have noticed crocodiles in the pond. We have to ensure there are no incidents,” said Rajendra Pawar, range forest officer, SGNP.
Pawar said that it was not possible to shift the three crocodiles out of the pond owing to the depth of water. “It is not possible for us to remove or shift the crocodiles to some other location,” he said.
While the park has suggested that people do not bring idols to the pond, it has not banned immersions “We have given in writing to municipal officials saying that people can still immerse their idols if they want to,” he added.
Crocodiles are found in the Tulsi and Vihar lakes that are located inside the park, but Ganesh immersions are not allowed because the lakes supply drinking water. The reptiles are also found in Powai lake which is used for idol immersions. Forest officials said that the crocodiles could have entered the pond from Tulsi when the lake overflowed.
Naresh Dahibawkar, president of Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti, the umbrella organisation of Ganpati mandals, said there are enough safety measures to prevent a crocodile attack. “The officials have confirmed that there will be lifeguards on a boat which will take the idols for the immersion. It is just that they are dissuading people from going there (SGNP) strictly on security grounds,” he said.
Some residents of the area are sceptical of reports of the crocodiles. “I have not spotted any crocodile. I hardly spot ducks there. Even if there are crocodiles, the officials can easily fish it out and move it to a safer place. It is just a pretext to stop people from going there for immersions,” said Nayan Kadam, vice-president of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
Kadam said that crocodiles have always been there in the park. “We have been immersing our beloved idols in the park for more than 40 years. Suddenly, they say there are crocodiles. They [the forest officials] should take responsibility and do something about it,” he added.