Considering the rich history behind Mumbai’s famous 41-acre Mahim Nature Park, it is no surprise that environmentalists have been protesting against the state government’s proposal to include the park under the Dharavi redevelopment project.
After years of toil, three Mumbai residents, part of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India, transformed a literal garbage yard, where hundreds of tonnes of garbage from across the city was dumped every day, into a thickly wooded park which boasts of over 18,000 trees and a wide array of wildlife.
Read more about its history here.
This nature park, a forest that rose over a heap of garbage, is now under threat. And if Mumbaikar’s don’t act now, we are looking at losing one of the city’s last surviving green spaces, say environmentalists.
In a notification issued on March 5, the concerned authorities have given Mumbaikars a mere month’s time to raise objections to the project that includes the nature park, popularly referred to as Mahim Nature Park, in the redevelopment of sector 5 of Dharavi, reported the Mumbai Mirror.
As the month nears its end, citizens have less than two weeks to save this lush land, home to over 85 species of butterflies, 154 species of birds, 32 reptiles, and 200 tree species.
When the publication reached out to the MMRDA Chief U P S Madan (the authority who owns the land) said he was unaware of SRA’s decision to use it for Dharavi’s redevelopment and will request the Urban Development department not to go ahead with the plan.
Director of the Bombay Natural History Society, Deepak Apte referred to the plan as an ecological suicide. The wildlife research organisation is also making a representation before the government to appeal to it to not let a concrete jungle replace the nature park.
Speaking to the publication, Bittu Sahgal, editor, Sanctuary Asia, and former co-chairman of the nature park, expressed his shock over the government’s plan.
“The Maharashtra Nature Park is a ‘deemed forest’ as per orders of the Supreme Court. Not an inch of its biodiverse sprawl can be touched by developers. This is now also a ‘soak’ that helps control monsoon flooding of the Mithi River. City planners seem unaware of the damage they inflict on Mumbai city,” he said.
Though housing Minister Prakash Mehta defended the SRA’s plan saying that no construction would be allowed on the land where the nature park currently stands and the idea is to include it is for better planning of the entire area, eco-groups and environmentalists, believe otherwise.
They say that once the nature park makes its entry into the Dharavi’s development project, it will soon be at the mercy of builders wanting to exploit it for real estate value, due to its proximity to the famous commercial area, Bandra-Kurla Complex.
“The MNP is a pioneering project, and ten other states have created such parks. The MNP is notified as ‘Important Bird Area’ on a global map. How can any government even think of any proposal that can harm the MNP in the long term,” Ulhas Rane, Director of Envirodesigners Pvt Ltd, which helped convert the MNP from a dumping ground in the 70s into the current park told the Mumbai Mirror.
How can you participate?
Participate in the movement alongside environmentalists by sending emails to the Slum Redevelopment Authority (SRA), the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
These objections and suggestions can be sent to the chief executive officer and officer on special duty of the Dharavi Redevelopment Project.
Slum Rehabilitation Authority, 5th floor, Griha Nirman Bhavan, Bandra East, Mumbai 400051
You can write to the MMRDA at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to the Chief Minister @Dev_Fadnavis or @CMO_Maharashtra.