‘Provide security around Lokhandwala Lake to prevent immersion’
Mumbai: Ahead of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, naturalist and veteran ornithologist Sunjoy Monga has reached out to the assistant municipal commissioner (AMC) of K-west ward to provide security around Lokhandwala Lake to prevent devotees from immersing Ganpati idols into one of the last remaining semi-wild open spaces in the western suburbs
Mumbai: Ahead of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, naturalist and veteran ornithologist Sunjoy Monga has reached out to the assistant municipal commissioner (AMC) of K-west ward to provide security around Lokhandwala Lake to prevent devotees from immersing Ganpati idols into one of the last remaining semi-wild open spaces in the western suburbs.
“This city and its administration needs to look at the lake more seriously as a valuable asset and the last of its kind in the western suburbs,” said Monga, whose request stems from former environment minister Aaditya Thackeray’s directions to bring the lake under the purview of the Indian Forest Act (1927), and protect it as a ‘reserved forest’ area.
In June, following Monga’s letter drawing attention to the neglect of the lake, Thackeray had instructed the forest department’s mangrove cell to assess its ownership history.
While the process of declaring the lake as a reserved forest area is still underway, Monga said that even though there is an artificial pond available for immersion, there have been cases of people sneaking into the lake area for immersion.
“When a decision to declare the lake as a reserved forest area has been taken, there should be some provision by way of security guards to stop idol immersions in the lake,” said Monga, also a Lokhandwala resident.
“This year, the ban on the plaster of Paris (PoP) idols and height restrictions has also been removed by the BMC. This removal of restrictions will cause extensive damage to the bio habitat.”
Assistant municipal commissioner Prithviraj Chavan was unavailable for comment. A senior official from the forest department shared that security to the Lokhandwala Lake cannot be provided because it is not yet under the forest department’s jurisdiction.
“The rights and claims are still under check. The proposal for declaration of reserve area will be submitted by the suburban collector’s office, to initiate the process, he said.
Nidhi Chaudhary, collector of Mumbai Suburban District, said it will take about two months to declare the lake a forest reserve area.
“No rights or claims have been made for the lake as yet. We are waiting for field reports following which our office will submit a proposal for the declaration of the reserve area,” said Chaudhary.
For many years, residents and conservationists have been highlighting the urgent need to protect Lokhandwala Lake from human interference. Once an intertidal water body on the fringes of the Malad Creek, the approximately 9-acre lake has since been cut off due to construction around its periphery, and is now completely rain-fed, drying up for a short period every year toward the end of the summer.
As per data recorded by birders, at least 133 species of birds have been spotted at the lake in the last 20 years (of which 59 are migratory, and 10 were rare sightings), in addition to 39 species of insects and reptiles, making it an important biodiversity hotspot amidst a rapidly urbanising landscape. The roads are lined with mostly exotic trees, including copperpods, gulmohars and acacias, which provide a suitable roosting place for birds.