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Open spaces are a necessity, not a luxury

By August end, a large portion of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) at Borivli will have new green members.

mumbai Updated: Jun 07, 2012 02:25 IST

By August end, a large portion of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) at Borivli will have new green members.

Around 15,000 native tree saplings will be planted at the Malad side of the park. “The land had nothing on it after the encroachments were removed. Some corporate houses approached us as part of their social responsibility. We got an estimate of the trees required on that part of the forest so they can plant trees,” said Sunil Limaye, chief conservator of forests, SGNP. “We will inform them of the type of saplings needed and how to plant them. So, the drive should start by the end of the month.”

The addition of trees at the national park — one of the few green lungs — is welcome in a city that is increasingly turning into concrete jungle with less space to breathe fresh air.

According to the data compiled by Open Mumbai, an ongoing exhibition at the Nehru Centre at Worli, a total 321 parks and gardens comprise just 0.5% or 2.5 sqkm of the city’s total land of 482.7 sq km. Recreational grounds cover 7.7 sqkm (1.6%) and playgrounds comprise 4 sqkm (0.8%). Also, 5.3 sqkm of all these spaces have been encroached upon. “The few open and green spaces left in the city are filled with a lot of people. This clearly shows that people feel the need to have such spaces. Open spaces are not a luxury, they are a necessity today,” said Neera Punj, convenor, Cityspace.

Punj added, “Our estimate of securing all the open spaces in Mumbai would be less than Rs200 crore. The authorities should take immediate efforts to secure these lands.”

According to environmental experts, open and green spaces are important for the mental, physical, psychological and sociological development of a human being.

In October 2005, the Bombay high court had stressed the importance of open spaces while upholding the Development Control Rule (DCR) 58 that required mill owners applying for redevelopment to surrender 1/3rd of the land to the civic body for open spaces and 1/3rd to Mhada for public housing. Quoting Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), which stated that if a foetus gets 33% less oxygen it will be born an idiot, the HC had warned that if Mumbai is deprived of green lungs (open spaces), the city may get a next generation full of idiots and morons. The HC order was overruled by the Supreme Court.

With few green spaces in the city, citizens are doing their bit to make their localities greener by planting saplings in their building compounds, educational institutes and parks and gardens.

“Green spaces are literally the lungs of the city. These are also places that people can use to escape during times of disasters such as floods and earthquakes,” said professor Shyam Asolekar, Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering, IIT-B.

Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivli

Payoshaa Shah
payoshaa.shah@hindustantimes.com

MUMBAI: Along the northern fringe of the maximum city, sprawls the vast green expanse of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP). With an area of 104 sqkm, SGNP is the largest national park in the world to be located inside an urban city.
“The park acts as a carbon sink for the city, absorbing toxic gases from vehicular and industrial emissions. Being the largest open space in the city, it has a high recreational value for citizens, who can experience the lush greenery and observe wildlife in its natural habitat,” said Krishna Tiwari, wildlife conservationist, SGNP.
The park plays host to over 2 million annual visitors, who flock to view the 1,100 plant species such as teak, bamboo, acacia and over 40 mammals such as leopard, spotted deer, porcupine. Besides this, the park also boasts of a huge variety of birds, reptiles, insects and butterflies. The vegetation comprises mixed-deciduous and semi-evergreen forests while the two lakes inside the park — Tulsi and Vihar — contribute to the city’s water supply.
“Human encroachment along the peripheries of the park is our biggest challenge. We want Mumbai to expand economically but not at the cost of ecology,” said Tiwari
The park organises various nature trails, the most popular trek is to Jambulmal, the highest point of the city. Located 1,600 feet above sea level, one gets a panoramic view of the city and its lakes from Jambulmal.
“In a city with reportedly the lowest per capita extent of open spaces, the existence of this extensive tract of wilderness is a boon for otherwise nature-starved people. The easy accessibility of this wilderness opens up doors to nature like it does not for people in other cities,” said Sunjoy Monga, naturalist.

Aarey Milk Colony, Goregaon

Namrata Maheshwari
n namrata.maheshwari@hindustantimes.com

MUMBAI: Located in Goregaon East, Aarey Milk colony boasts of 1,287 hectares of natural beauty since 1949. The colony has a nursery, an observation pavilion, gardens, lakes, picnic facilities, and milk plants. On an average, 16,000 cattle are reared on 1,287 hectares of land and 32 cattle farms.
Primarily known as a milk-producing centre, the colony is also home to more than 126 species of butterflies, 46 species of reptiles, 13 species of amphibians, 34 species of mammals, 5 species of scorpions and several species of spiders.
The 12-km green stretch also has attractions such as the Aarey Garden Restaurant, Chhota Kashmir and the boat rides and the picnic spot. A number of people from the suburbs frequent Aarey Milk Colony for rejuvenating activities such as cycling and jogging. In the past, the colony has also been used as a site for film shootings.


Maharashtra Nature Park, dharavi

Radhika Agarwal
radhika.agarwal@hindustantimes.com

MUMBAI: If you are bothered by the stench of the Mithi River while driving along its southern course, a stopover at the Maharashtra Nature Park (MNP), Dharavi, will serve as a relief to your senses.
Every year, around 1.5 lakh people come to visit this park located on the Bandra-Sion Link Road, that houses 123 species of birds (as recorded), more than 78 types of butterflies, 22
varieties of reptiles and amphibia and more than 30 species of spiders.
“Dr Salim Ali floated the idea of the development of a nature park at the site and supervised the initial tree plantation here,” said Avinash Kubal, deputy director of MNP. Today the park has 580 species of plants, which includes trees, climbers, shrubs and grass.
The nature park, inaugurated on World Earth Day 22nd April 1994, was a landfill site before making it to the list of one of the major green lungs of the city. It was only in 1984 that the process to convert this
37-acre dumping ground into the beautiful nature park it is today started.
The park authorities also conduct nature trails as part of the park’s unique nature education initiatives. The rooftop rainwater harvesting system stores around 2,000 kilolitres of water every monsoon, which is used to irrigate the vegetation in the park, hence ensuring its self-sufficiency.


MPT Garden, Colaba

Radhika Agarwal
radhika.agarwal@hindustantimes.com

MUMBAI: Amid the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, one can find a way to be close to the nature at the Mumbai Port Trust Garden, located at the tip of the island city in Colaba.
This botanical garden, spread over an area of 46,000 sqm, is home to plants such as the cannon-ball tree, traveller’s palm, yellow trumpetbush, and
birds such as red-whiskered bulbuls, red-vented bulbuls, purple rumped sunbirds, coppersmith barbet along with a number of other rare species of flora and fauna.
There are over 5,000 plants in all in the garden with an inbuilt 800-meter long pathway that enables morning and evening walks through the eco-friendly park.
“Around 4,000 people come for a walk in the MPT Garden everyday,” said Vijay Kalantri, president, All India Association of Industries, which is currently responsible for maintaining the garden.
“College and school students often visit the garden to learn about different varieties of flora and fauna as part of their curriculum,” he added.

Mazagaon Garden
Payoshaa Shah
payoshaa.shah@hindustantimes.com

MUMBAI: Situated at 105 feet above sea level, the Mazagaon Garden, also known as the Joseph Baptista Garden, provides a spectacular view of the docks along the east coast.

The garden is perched on top of Bhandarwada Hill and sits atop a water reservoir. Cycas, ixora, musanda, bougainvillea, and hibiscus are some of the vibrant flowering plants that brighten up the 1.5-acre area of the garden frequented by joggers, senior citizens and students. The garden was built in 1884 and is named after freedom fighter, Joseph Baptista, who was born in Mazagaon.