Mumbai: Debris, hutments encroaching upon SGNP
Forest authorities removed nine illegal huts near the Aarey Milk Colony boundary wall in Sanjay Gandhi National Park on Monday evening, in a bid to stop illegal dumping of debris inside the park.
The move comes after wildlife activist Sachin Roy came across a mound of debris nearly three storeys high, spread over 3,000 sqft inside the park. Roy approached the not-for-profit Watchdog Foundation two weeks ago.
The NGO wrote to the chief conservator of forests and submitted photographic evidence of the debris. “On visiting the site, one can see almost 1,500 truckloads of debris had been dumped inside the forested area. The dumping must have been happening over months, which is what gave rise to the hutments,” said Nicholas Almedia, from the Watchdog Foundation.
Acting on the complaint, SGNP authorities demolished the huts. “We increased vigilance in the area as incidents like this have been happening for a while. Illegal slums and liquor breweries have been cropping up inside the park,” said Vikas Gupta, director and chief conservator of forest, SGNP.
Gupta said this was happening because of the vast expanse of the park that is surrounded by urban areas. Further, the compound wall on the park’s periphery has not been fully constructed, allowing for easy entry points.
For instance, forest officers arrested a truck driver and seized his truck that entered the park to dump debris on May 13. Such drivers are paid around Rs800-1,000 to dump debris from different parts of the city, said a local.
“There is wall defining the boundary of the forest and Aarey department. The illegal hutments came up inside the forest area, as the site is accessible. The illegal huts started cropping up just a few metres away from this dumping site, adjacent to the proposed zoo,” Roy said.