General

Greening the Eastern Side of Sanjay Gandhi National Park



Indian Wildlife Club.com has been in existence for about a year, providing a forum for exchange of views among wildlife enthusiasts and disseminating information on environmental issues and working for achieving a consensus on approach to resolving environmental issues.  Recently, the club decided to go beyond its cyber existence and to set up local chapters so that its members could get involved with a larger community and take up environment up- gradation work.   

A beginning was made by members from Mumbai.  As part of ground level activities  members of the club visited the Borivili National Park( also called Sanjay Gandhi National Park) which is the green lung of Mumbai.  There was visible denudation of the forest on the Eastern side of the Park which called for remedial action.


Encroachment on one of the hills. In the background one can see the smog over Mumbai city. This picture was taken around 12a.m.. In the left top corner, another view of he encroached hill is shown.

Indian Wildlife Club decided to take up this work and for that we have been in touch with other organisations. Our  networking with BNHS and WWF(I) Mumbai chapter elicited eager responses and officials from WWF(I) Dr. Jagdish Puneta and Mr. Kedar Gore have since agreed to actively involve themselves in the effort being mounted by the Club. We are now in the process of  approaching the Forest Deptt. to seek their approval and cooperation and we expect a positive response from them within the next 10/15 days.


Members who trekked to the Eastern side from left to right: Sunil Joshi, Swapnali Das, Srikant Oka,  Krishna Tiwari, Geeta Verghese and Susan Sharma

The activities we intend taking up are :

   1.      Take up tree plantation in the park with the help of volunteers
   2.         Enrich the experience for the volunteers themselves by organizing workshops and                 nature walks for them with the help of  WWF(I), Mumbai.
   3.         Make an effort to involve the youth from the slums in and around the park in the         reforestation work

It is felt that groups of volunteers can take up the task of planting tree saplings in a planned manner. We believe that drawing volunteers from educational institutions has a dual benefit in the opportunity that such endeavours provide for involving the youth in constructive activities, educating them on the importance of protecting the environment and getting a committed volunteer group.

Introduction: The forest of Borivili is Mumbai's indispensable lung.  Not only that, most of the water supply of Mumbai comes from rivers and lakes in the Borivili National Park (BNP) and Tansa Wild Life Sanctuaries. Years of abuse by quarry owners, illegal encroachment, poaching and illicit distilling stills have taken their toll and left their marks in the once densely forested hills.  While the socio-legal processes are already underway to clear the forest land of illegal occupants, we can help the forest regrow  fast by scientifically implementing a tree plantation program suited to the land and climate.

The plan : Members of the Indian wildlife club visited the eastern and western side of the park and came to the conclusion that the western side is taken care of by the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and it is the eastern side ( adjoining Thane area) that needs immediate attention. We have tied up with Dr. Jagdish Puneta and Mr. Kedar Gore of WWF(I) who have promised all their expertise and scientific knowledge to green the Eastern side of BNP in the shortest possible time. The plan, however needs to be discussed with the Forest Conservator who will map the area for reforesting.

The Activity: The objective is to plant at least 1000 selected saplings in an area alongside the Eastern side of BNP, to be approved by the Forest officials.  The saplings will be selected for hardiness i.e., trees which are non edible to grazing cattle and capable of taking root in one season.  As far as possible only indigenous varieties of trees will be chosen as these attract bird life and are more suited to the soil.  Prior to planting,  ground preparation like making trenches, removing stones , cordoning off areas etc. will need to be undertaken.

Resources needed: The greatest resource needed for undertaking the above activity is 'volunteers' willing to devote time and energy.  Saplings will be provided by WWF(I) Mumbai chapter.  Implements can be had from the Forest Department.  Water for the saplings will have to be arranged from Thane, but most of this requirement will hopefully be met by the coming monsoon.  This and some fencing work may need some financial outlay.  But who will plant the trees?  This is where we want to involve the young college students of Mumbai.

Mobilising students  By organizing workshops to create awareness in Mumbai colleges and high schools, by arranging nature walks in the park area, by providing incentives for students who participate in the greening project. WWF(I) Mumbai chapter and  Indian Wildlife Club members will join hands in conducting workshops.

Proposed time schedule: The awareness campaigns in colleges will have to be organized during February -March before the colleges close for vacation. The pre plantation ground preparation must ideally start in the first week of April by when we could mobilse enough volunteers.  Sometime between May 15 th and the 1st week of June, that is, just before the monsoon starts a massive camp can be organized for planting the trees.  The resources of WWF(I) and the Mumbai based members of Indian Wildlife Club will help in organizing the workshops and mobilising volunteers.  Efforts will also be made to network with like minded volunteer organisations working in Thane, Mulund area .

A recent study by KEM Hospital on the increase of diseases due to air pollution  in three representative regions of Mumbai revealed that while 60% to 70% of Mumbaikers in the regions studied suffered from headaches and eye irritation caused by pollution,  only 5% of the residents of Borivili East suffered from these symptoms. In fact Borivili (East) has been chosen as the control area for such studies as this part records minimum air pollution in the Pollution Control Board's figures. According to Dr. A.A Mahashur who did the study, greening has a dampening effect on the pollution effects on humans.

 

 
One of the lakes which supply water to Mumbai City


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