Mumbai’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park to get a facelift in 2018, with help from Belgian government
Mumbai’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) will get help from the Belgian government to conserve its biodiversity and revamp the park.
The national park, one of the few forests in the world to be situated in an urban area, was chosen for the project from among four other urban forest areas. The national park is home to a free roaming leopard population of more than 30, nearly 250 bird species, 40 kinds of reptiles and over a thousand types of plants.
The conservation project took off in February after Belgium’s consul general Peter Huyghebert visited the park, following a tender for SGNP’s revamp. The Belgian consul general’s office said they needed time to respond to HT’s queries about the project.
“Technologies from Belgium’s Antwerp Zoo will be replicated at proposed projects in SGNP such as a mini zoo towards the Borivali end of the park, near the forest offices, and the leopard safari. Also, breeding centres and care research centres are going to be developed,” said Sanjiv Chavan, former forest officer, in-charge of the project. “Belgium’s king and queen might be visiting Mumbai in November as part of their trip to India, which is when the MoU will be signed.”
Maharashtra’s forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar told HT that his ministry has approved a proposal by the Belgian consulate to provide new technologies to carry out research on the rich biodiversity of SGNP. The proposal was approved by forest department.
“Out of four global urban forests, the Belgians chose SGNP and declared it as the most unique national park in the world,” said Mungantiwar. “The delegation that visited SGNP was astonished after they saw current biodiversity of forest and was amazed by presence of 35 leopards in and around the periphery of national park. Even the variety of flora and fauna is much more impressive than any other parks they were considering.”
Three other national parks – Table Mountain National Park in Cape Town, South Africa, Nairobi National Park in Kenya, and Serra da Cantareira National Park in Sao Paulo, Brazil – all located on the fringes of metropolitan cities, were identified by the Belgian government for the conservation project.
Mungantiwar added that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) will be signed in November and work will begin from April-May 2018. “The Belgians will fund 75% of the project, and we will fund the rest,” he said.
The Antwerp Zoo, which opened in 1843, is one of the oldest in the world and has 5,000 animals of 950 species in its 10.5 hectares. The zoo is listed as a monument with over eight buildings housing animals. It has separate breeding programmes and a dedicated centre for research and conservation for endangered species including the bonobo, golden headed lion tamarin and the okapi.
“We have already chalked out different areas where projects for research centres or breeding programmes can be developed. However, all details will be revealed post the MoU is signed. Our objective is to have a world class national park by next year,” said Anwar Ahmed, chief conservator of forest, SGNP adding, “While talks are still on, we have been told that the crown prince and princess of the current Belgian monarchy might be visiting Mumbai later this year.”
About Sanjay Gandhi National Park
SGNP covers an area of 103.8 square kilometres in Mumbai suburban and Thane district. It was created in 1950 as the Krishnagiri National Park.
Tulsi and Vihar lakes, which were created in the late nineteenth century to supply water to Mumbai, are located within the boundary of the park. Another lake, Powai, is located south of the park.
The forest is home to 274 species of birds, 35 species of mammals, 40 species of reptiles, 170 species of butterflies and 1,300 species of flowering plants. HT had reported in June last year that a study undertaken by the SGNP, in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), found 35 free-roaming leopards in and around the national park.
“Despite being surrounded by urban sprawl with a population of 24 million people, SGNP is the only park in the world that stands for conservation of a large biodiversity,” said Anwar Ahmed, chief conservator of forest, SGNP. “While SGNP is home to the almost extinct Chevrotain (mouse deer species) it also has the highest number of carnivores per square kilometre across the world.”