Entry of private vehicles will be prohibited into the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) when it reopens for tourists after the lockdown. Sixteen battery-operated buses will instead ferry people inside the park, especially to the Kanheri caves. A parking lot, with a capacity to accommodate 300 cars, is under construction near the park’s entrance, officials said.
Before the lockdown, private vehicles heading towards Kanheri caves caused traffic snarls inside the national park, especially on weekends. On average, the park sees 100 private vehicles daily. According to official estimates, SGNP receives more than 12 lakh visitors every year and earns around Rs 50-70 lakh in entry charges annually.
G Mallikarjun, director, SGNP said, “Vehicles create disturbance for animals that venture out in search of water and prey. We want a total restriction on the entry of private vehicles into the park premises. I am told, on weekends there is bumper to bumper traffic inside the park.”
SGNP is also planning to reopen the park for registered morning walkers from October 15. The authorities will allow walkers between 5.30 am and 7.30 am on a marked trail inside the forest, officials said.
To curb encroachment on forest land, the park is further planning to use satellite images of all forested areas in and around it to trace the timeline of encroachments. According to earlier documents, a total of 28,951 illegal structures are built inside as well as around the periphery of SGNP, with over 25,000 structures inside the park. However, officials said no current data is available to trace the growth of encroachments in the area. “I need data in my hand where the encroachment increasing. Currently, we depend on complaints or staff visits to an area. Encroachers also know that we don’t have data and the whole encroachment removal exercise falls into a loophole. If tomorrow, someone makes a claim, I can verify it if there is data in form of satellite images,” Mallikarjun said.
The state Forest department has also proposed a wireless communication project for its frontline staff to enhance connectivity across Mumbai, Thane and Palghar forest areas.
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