With an eye on the upcoming civic elections in early 2012, the Shiv Sena has decided to compromise with municipal chief Subodh Kumar and is now pushing the civic body to finish the revamp of the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan, popularly known as Byculla zoo, within a year.
Rather than opposing Kumar downsizing the budget from Rs480 crore to Rs150 crore, the ruling party has decided to go ahead with the revised project.
Instead, the Shiv Sena-ruled civic body has short-listed two consultants for the bird and reptile park in Powai, which is expected to cost about Rs200 crore.
However, the Sena is keen to have the first phase of the revamp, which is the interpretation zone, ready by November 14. “We plan to inaugurate it on Children’s Day, as it will host a number of children’s activities such as a library on wildlife as well as a 3D zone,” said Rahul Shewale, standing committee chairman.
Senior leaders of the Sena confirmed that the zoo would be its showcase project in the upcoming civic elections. This, after the Mumbai Heritage conservation committee (MHCC) issued final directions to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The committee has ruled out any major changes, especially construction of restaurants, in the existing structure of the zoo.
According to sources, the BMC has taken the heritage committee’s latest directives seriously and is making a modified plan. “This is possibly the first time that the MHCC has given us some definite feedback on what will be allowed,” a senior civic official said on condition of anonymity. “On previous occasions, they simply rejected the plan. Hence, we are working on the revised plan and will submit it soon for the Central Zoo Authority’s approval.”
As per the latest plan, the civic body wants to retain the existing network of pathways and concentrate on making changes that would not require the committee’s nod. Additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta said, “We are getting some additional land from the Mafatlal mills next door and plan to make a special enclosure for all the wild cats in the zoo. We are also focusing on readying the interpretation zone, which will house penguins.”
Dinesh Afzalpurkar, chairman, MHCC, said, “We have submitted our final directions to the BMC on the Byculla zoo modernisation project. However, we have specified that the botanical garden’s character needs to be preserved while drawing up the new plans.”
Officials said the cost of the project had reduced since it was decided to shift the reptiles and birds to an existing 30-acre plot near Powai lake. “We have already called for the request for proposals from consultants and will appoint one in two weeks. The project will take about a year-and-a-half and would cost around Rs200 crore. However, we will be doing it on a Build-Operate-Transfer basis, and hence, won’t require civic funds,” said an official from the gardens department.