For the first time, the roughly 104 sq km Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) at Borivali will have a watershed management plan, set to improve the park’s water-retaining capacity. The plan will involve increasing the capacity of lakes Vihar and Tulsi, sources of drinking water for the city, by “stabilising and regulating flow (of streams) into the lakes”.
Currently, foresters are surveying the entire park area and mapping waterholes using GPS instruments. During the monsoon, the officers will record the behaviour of streams – the flow, length, areas through which they pass and animals that use them. The data compiled will then be superimposed on existing GIS maps of the park.
“By October-end, we hope to have the plan ready. So far, we used to construct artificial water holes inside the park whenever there was a scarcity. Now, we will manage the natural watersheds in an organised manner and give priority to natural water springs. This will help the wildlife, vegetation and help Mumbaikars’ water needs,” said Vikas Gupta, chief conservator, SGNP.
With the plan ready and funds sanctioned by the end of this year, forest officials will increase vegetation around the lakes and streams, install silt traps in and around the streams to retain the soil and avoid excess siltation in the lakes. Excavation to create natural storages, diversions with the help of boulders and small check dams using brush wood (twigs, hummus) will be part of the project.
Through these “minimal intervention and natural” methods, SGNP officials will try to disperse the available water to all areas of the park, especially during the lean period.The whole project will take around a year and a half, entailing two dry seasons, said Vijay Paranjpye, water expert and chairman of Gomukh Environmental Trust For Sustainable Development, Pune.
“The aim is habitat conservation through soil, water and biological conservation,” said Paranjpye. “Any conservation work done will directly increase the release of water into these lakes– helping improve water supply to the city and reducing the intensity of floods occurring due to runoffs into areas outside the park.”Paranjpye explained the 2005 deluge in Mumbai was partly because of excess water flowing into the creek from Mithi. By retaining the water within the park, the excess water can be kept from running off into the creek.
The project, its planning and implementation, will involve the foresters as opposed to being contracted out and they will become the best interpreters of the park.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines