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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

Revamp of Sanjay Gandhi National Park stalled after MoU with Belgium gets delayed

Forest officials say technical difficulties, pending clarifications are cause of delay

mumbai Updated: Nov 12, 2017 00:37 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
(Praful Gangurde)

Plans to revamp Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), including the mini zoological park, leopard safari and other projects, are going to be delayed.

Officials from SGNP said that a memorandum of understanding (MoU), which was to be signed between the Belgian government and the state forest department, has been stalled due to technical difficulties and pending clarifications from both governments during a meeting on Friday.

“The project has been delayed as both parties responsible for signing the MoU bilaterally agreed to defer it because there are certain terms and conditions that needed to be finalised. However, details regarding the terms and conditions cannot be made public until the MoU is signed,” said Anwar Ahmed, chief conservator of forest, SGNP. “We are keen on completing this project, and it will be done once both parties have clarity.”

Forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar told HT that discussions regarding the funding of the project still need to be completed. “As of now, the Belgians will fund 75% of the project and the state forest department will pitch in the rest. However, we want them to fund the entire project since they have chosen this location for their research. Technicalities regarding the same are still being discussed,” he said.

Mungantiwar added that the idea is to revamp SGNP and Gorewada Zoo in Nagpur to make them at par with international standards. “While it might be a prolonged process, the scale of such an international project will take time to be completed. Signing any MoU with another country entails legal hurdles as well. We are working in tandem with them on all these parameters.”

HT had reported in July this year that the Belgian consulate had submitted a proposal to forest department to remodel, provide state-of-the-art technologies and carry out research work to conserve the rich biodiversity of SGNP. Mungantiwar had said that the consulate had chosen SGNP out of four global urban forests in the world, and declared it as the most unique national park located within the periphery of a megacity.

The conservation project took off in February after Belgium’s consul general Peter Huyghebert visited the park. It was expected to be finalised during Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde’s visit to Mumbai between Thursday and Friday.

The project details entail technologies from Belgium’s Antwerp Zoo to be replicated at proposed projects in SGNP, such as a mini zoo towards the Borivli end of the park, and the leopard safari. Additionally, breeding centres and care research hubs for animals are also expected to be developed. The Antwerp Zoo, which opened in 1843, is one of the oldest in the world and has 5,000 animals from 950 species in its 10.5 hectares. The zoo is listed as a monument, with eight buildings housing animals. It has a research centre for conservation of endangered species.

First Published: Nov 12, 2017 00:37 IST

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