Visitors to the Yeoor section of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) left more than 15,000kg of garbage across the forest, padas within the forest and Yeoor village over the past month, said officials.
According to officials of the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC), SGNP and a consortium of NGOs and locals, who collected the garbage, the litter comprised contraband, empty liquor bottles, plastic bags and bottles, cigarette packets and food wrappers.
“Three trucks have been collecting nearly 500kg of trash from areas within the forest daily. We have deputed six civic officials to collect garbage every day but the quantum of trash never decreases,” said GB Khillare, deputy chief sanitary inspector, TMC. “We request visitors to protect the natural environment of the forest and to take responsibility for their own garbage.”
The Yeoor Hills — at the eastern edge of SGNP near Thane — attracts tourists during the monsoon, as its streams and waterfalls are rejuvenated. However, owing to its steep slopes and crevices, it is easy for trash and empty alcohol bottles to get stuck in the area, which is home to a range of medicinal plants, birds, insects and leopards.
The garbage damages the local ecosystem, and is a threat to the flora and fauna. Glass and plastic bottles can injure the animals, and if consumed,they might fall fatally ill.
With the Gatari Amavasya season between July 31 and August 2, following which, Shravan begins, NGOs have appealed to visitors to avoid drinking within the forest or disturbing the natural habitat by organising picnics in the park.
“Thousands flock to the hills during the festive season and celebrate by drinking and partying amid the natural habitat,” said Krishna Tiwari, founder, Forest and Wildlife Conservation Society. “In order to monitor the situation, NGOs have requested the forest department and the local police to provide security and conduct strict patrolling in the area.”
“The TMC permitted us to check visitors coming in public buses before they enter the forest,” said Omkar Adhikari, chairman, NGO Paryavaran Sanvardhan Sanstha.
Officials from the forest department told HT that they have installed closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras near the entrance.
“We do not permit entry to those who bring along alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or any other contraband. Every visitor will be frisked at the gate and strict action will be taken against those disobeying rules,” said a forest official.