CALLING SANJAY Gandhi National Park (SGNP) the “lungs of Mumbai”, Congress MLA Dhiraj Deshmukh, also the newly appointed member of the state Wildlife Board, said sufficient protection should be provided to the wildlife park. Deshmukh also said a balance had to be drawn between development and wildlife for overall progress of the state.
The state government reconstituted the Wildlife Board on Thursday.
State Minister of Environment and Tourism Aaditya Thackeray and Minister of State Dattatreya Bharne have also been appointed to the board, responsible for providing clearance to infrastructure projects, relocation of big animals, and declaration of protected areas. The board was formed eight months after the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) came to power.
Deshmukh said the SGNP, once upon a time, snaked around the city, but Mumbai’s growth had restricted the park’s area. “Without doubt the park has to be protected. But the park has numerous roads now, due to which incidents of human-animal conflict have increased. I think we should ensure wildlife is protected along with the park and its perimeter walls. We need CCTV cameras for the same,” he said.
Speaking of the need for holistic development, Deshmukh, whose brother Amit Deshmukh is the cabinet minister in charge of medical education, said the board will try and ensure balance between development and conservation was maintained.
Big-ticket projects like Samruddhi Mahamarg and various irrigation projects slated to come up before the board. “In the post-Covid era, we need to ensure that balance between development and ecology is not disturbed. While we will ensure the engines of the economy are restarted, proper care will be taken to ensure ecological balance,” he said.
On human-animal conflict, which pits wildlife against development, Deshmukh said this was often the result of encroachment. “If food and shelter for wildlife is not disturbed, no such conflict will happen. Ours is a listening government and we are open to listen to everyone,” he said.
The first meeting of the board, Deshmukh said, will be held via videoconferencing with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray expected to address the meeting.