The MUMBAI Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s (MMRDA) plan to redevelop Mahim’s Maharashtra Nature Park (MNP) has met with resistance from some in the park’s Board of Governors. Members fear that the execution of the proposed plan will damage the rich ecology of the park and also deviate from its original purpose. “The main purpose of the park is environmental education and it is being well fulfilled right now. Students and nature lovers come here to educate themselves or for research. The new plan will make this area a recreation zone, not only defeating its original purpose but also affecting the area’s ecology. Any such plan will be strongly opposed by us,” said Vaibhavi Shitut, one of the members of the MNP Society.
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Erected over a dumping ground in 1994, the 37-acre park is a nature lover’s haven in the middle of the city. Located on the south banks of the Mithi river, the park is home to over 158 varieties of birds, 85 species of butterflies, 30 spider varieties and 32 kinds of reptiles. This green space sees a footfall of 1.5 lakh visitors per year. While it may sound a meagre number, that is not a cause of worry for the park management. “Every ecological sensitive zone has a certain carrying capacity. If you go beyond that number, the place starts degrading permanently. The carrying capacity of MNP is around 2,000 people per day and if the number goes beyond that, its ecosystem will be irreversibly damaged,” said Avinash Kubal, deputy director, MNP Society.
The proposal selected by the MMRDA hopes to increase the footfall by constructing a pedestrian-cycling bridge from BKC, which will allow easy access for office-goers to the park. Selected through a global competition organised by the MMRDA and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a Mumbai-based firm, Sameep Padora and Associates (sP+a), were chosen as the final planners. Their proposal aims to beautify the park area and the adjoining polluted Mithi river, for which, among other things, it suggests planting phytoremediation trees, which can take care of soluble pollutants. The park is set to have many new amenities, including a viewing tower in the centre, a bird walk, a butterfly park, a cafe, a library, an event space, a play area for children along with construction of new office buildings.
“We have planned everything in a way that will cause minimum disturbance to the natural habitat,” said Padora. However, not everyone is convinced. Dr Nandini Deshmukh, a retired member of the board, said, “Any form of construction in the park will hamper its ecosystem. The cycling bridge through the park is unnecessary and will cause deforestation. The park is to be a research centre, not a recreation centre.” While the board members agree that the park needs certain upkeep measures, they feel it should be kept to the bare essentials.
The MMRDA, however, said that the redevelopment plan will give the park a modern, aesthetically pleasing look without disturbing the ecosystem.