Valley crossing, rock climbing, rappelling, mountain cycling and treks along natural trails will soon begin along the hillocks of Kharghar and Panvel. These adventure sports are part of the forest department’s proposal in the nature park, which is set to come up along 700-800 hectare of hillocks owned mainly by the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra (CIDCO). The proposal will be submitted to the CIDCO on April 9, said K P Singh, chief conservator of forests (territorial) Thane.
In the next two months, officials from Thane and Alibaug forest divisions will plant indigenous species of trees in 25 hectares on the hillocks and aid natural regeneration in 200 hectares. “We have added parts of the reserved forests to the land that CIDCO owns in the area to create a nature park. It is a huge project and the forest department work will cost around Rs 30 crore for the next six years, but this figure could go up. It will be entirely financed by CIDCO,” said Singh.
According to the forest department, the Kharghar hills see heavy rainfall and have many evergreen trees. To promote better growth of these trees, the malformed parts of the existing trees will be cut and in places where there are two to three seedlings, only the robust one will be allowed to grow. The department hopes to achieve a growth of 10-12 feet of the existing forest in the next two years.
“We had started the nature park project in 2005 and had build pathways for morning walkers. After a Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) study revealed that there are more than 250 kinds of birds and several species of butterflies and snakes in this area, we thought of developing this area as a full-fledged nature park with the help of the forest department,” said Mohan Ninawe, public relations officer, CIDCO.
In addition to plantation, forest officials will also treat identified nullahs in the region and erect gabion walls (a wall filled with earth or rocks and used especially in building a support or abutment) around them for soil and moisture conservation. Enhanced fire protection will be provided to this region by creating fire lines (a gap in vegetation that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of fire), building watch-towers and deploying rapid response teams in this region to better monitor fires. To keep cattle and stray dogs out, the areas will be protected by building a distinct thorny plantation-based fence.
The Pandavkada waterfalls will also be given better security and have more tourist-friendly facilities like changing rooms. “Just last year, the joint forest management in that area earned around Rs 6 lakh from tourism during the four months that the waterfall was active. We plan to train more local tribals so they can help protect the area,” said Singh.