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Sea the treasure: Navi Mumbai to get country’s first marine mammal museum

State allocates ₹30 crore for project; solar-powered museum to come up on 5-acre Airoli plot

mumbai Updated: Jul 12, 2019 12:42 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Navi Mumbai,Museum
The museum will house skeleton remains of endangered marine species, including the 44-foot-long (13.5m) skeleton of a blue whale that was washed ashore at Kegaon beach near Uran in Navi Mumbai in June 2018.(HT FILE)

If all goes according to the Maharashtra government’s plans, you could make a trip to the country’s first, solar-powered marine mammal museum and stand next to the skeleton of the 40-foot-long Bryde’s whale that had washed ashore Juhu beach in January 2016. The state government has approved the construction of the Giants of the Sea museum at the Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Centre in Airoli, Navi Mumbai, and allocated ₹30 crore for the project.

The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) confirmed that this would be the first museum in India dedicated to marine mammals. “The museum and marine interpretation centre will help in three ways – research, conservation and citizen awareness,” said Dr Kailash Chandra, director, ZSI. “Skeletal remains of more marine animals need to be brought to this centre to build a repository of different types of species, and build a time scale of how they were stranded along the Indian coastline.”

The museum will display skeletal remains of endangered marine species such as the Bryde’s whale, sperm whale, Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins and finless porpoises. There will be a separate area for the skeletal remains of turtles. “Skeletal structures of a few other whales, dolphins and porpoises, have been preserved by the cell, which will all be put on display,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.

The state mangrove cell is currently preparing the design of the five-acre complex, of which two acres will be for the museum. There will also be a kilometre-long boardwalk through mangrove forests in the Thane creek flamingo sanctuary, interactive displays on marine biodiversity along Maharashtra’s coast, a watchtower for bird enthusiasts from where the expanse of mangrove cover can be seen, and parking space for visitors.

“We will be investing ₹10 crore this year initiating basic construction of the project, and another ₹20 crore by next year. The project will be complete by end 2020,” said Vasudevan.

Among the exhibits will be a 40-foot-long skeleton of a male Bryde’s whale (schedule I species, Wildlife Protection Act, 1972), which had washed ashore in Mumbai in 2016, and a 25-foot-long male sperm whale (schedule I species) that had washed ashore at Sindhudurg in 2012.

“Skeletal remains of more marine animals need to be brought to this centre to build a repository of different types of species, and build a time scale of how they were stranded,” said Dr Chandra.

“In all, there are about 60-70 places where remains [marine mammal] skeletons remains are present, but this is a decision on the right direction: To build one museum where all these skeletal structures can be preserved for awareness and conservation,” said E Vivekanandan, national consultant, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute.

The Giants of Sea museum was first proposed in January 2017 and was to be completed by December 2017.

“There was a delay due to inadequate resources, non-availability of funds and a comprehensive plan. Approvals are in place after all three aspects have been addressed,” said Vasudevan.

First Published: Jul 10, 2019 00:13 IST