A weekend trip to Alibaug will no longer be just sun, sand and beaches.
On the Mumbai-Alibaug road, at the edge of the Teenvira dam, butterflies, spiders, chameleons and wild hare are flocking to a 1.25-acre patch of land that was barren a year ago.
Over 10 months, the Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CERE), in a bid to promote biodiversity and sustainability, planted 55,000 saplings of 540 native plant species and developed the SP (Shapoorji Pallonji ) Native Biodiversity Garden.
Native plants are an important part of the ecosystem, as they create a habitat for insects, birds, amphibians and mammals, while also being a source of food and medicines.
The plants also help purify the air prevent and soil erosion.
“Urban biodiversity is fast disappearing and we need to create conducive habitats within cities to protect and increase our native flora and fauna,” said Rashneh N Pardiwala, founder and director of CERE.
“Biodiversity gardens like this one give us the opportunity to regenerate vulnerable species like the Eulophia Orchid, Krishnagaru and Sandalwood trees and the Asian wasp moth.”
The theme garden has several sections, including a sensory station where children can walk barefoot and use musical bamboos, a medicinal section, a section for butterflies, wetlands and pond ecosystem, grasses, bamboo, palms, spices, kitchen and a sacred grove.
The garden is also home to some Western Ghats species, as it is located in the Raigad district, a biodiversity hotspot where many species are on the verge of extinction.
All garden lights and water pumps run on solar energy, and the garden is watered using drip irrigation to conserve water.
“We would like this garden template, a first-of-its-kind in India, to be multiplied across our towns and cities as wildlife is coming back in a big way to this garden, mainly because the habitat is native,” said Kitayun Rustom, CERE.
“Many of the topics from school textbooks have been incorporated into designing the garden.”
“We are happy the garden will serve as a learning centre for visitors and schoolchildren, who can come here to learn about biodiversity and native species. We also hope the garden boosts tourism for the beautiful Alibaug taluka,” said Aswad Patil, a member of the Raigad Zilla Parishad.