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SAVE TREES AND SAFEGUARD ACCESSIBILITY OF RANI BAGH BOTANICAL GARDEN, MUMBAI

To,
The Municipal Commissioner, Mumbai
Superintendent of Gardens, Mumbai

We, the undersigned nature lovers, are shocked and pained to see press reports that Jijamata Udyan, Mumbai, better known as Rani Bagh, will be partially closed down to enable its so-called “transformation into a world class zoo” at the cost of Rs. 433.57 crore as per a contract signed between the MCGM and HKS Designer and Consultant International (a Thai-based Malaysian company) and the Portico Group (US).

As there is no vacant treeless space in this public botanical park, this petition opposes construction of numerous structures necessitated by the proposed modernization which will most likely lead to

the felling of age-old trees

make entry fee prohibitively expensive for common citizens.

 

Botanical Garden and Rare Nature Heritage Site

The 53-acre Rani Bagh, established as a botanical garden in 1861, is home to 3,177 trees of 227 species, both indigenous and exotic, hundreds of which are majestic centenarians, in addition to thousands of shrubs, flowering plants and climbers. This dense foliage is home to dozens of species of birds, butterflies, squirrels and thousands of fruit bats and flying foxes.

Tree Felling for construction activity

Over the past few years when some moat-encircled, cage-less enclosures were constructed, it was observed that several trees were felled. In view of the proposed plans to construct a new car park, aquarium, 3-D theatre, children’s exploration centre, expansion of the animal hospital, quarters for veterinary staff, auditorium etc. we fear that numerous trees, shrubs and open lawns will be sacrificed to make space for construction entailing habitat destruction for birds, bats, squirrels, and a panorama of insect life.

Increased Flood Risk

Rani Bagh with its 53 acre soil cover provides a huge soak basin for heavy rainfall. Given that environmentalists have blamed rampant concretization for disastrous monsoon flooding, we feel that indiscriminate concretization of Rani Bagh will surely cause heavier floods in Mumbai.

A much-visited park

Rani Bagh attracts an average of 8,000 visitors daily going up to 30,000 per day during vacation time making it one of the most visited parks the world over. Clearly Mumbai citizens need and love this green haven.

Denial of access to common citizens?

Current entry fee is affordable: Rs. 5 per adult and Rs. 2 per child. School children (group visits) pay a mere Rs. 1 per head; Senior citizens and Municipal school children (group visits) have free entry. After expensive facilities are installed the entry tariff is bound to rise drastically.

We therefore demand that:

a) a legal guarantee be provided that entry fee will not be raised

b) a legal guarantee be provided that not a single tree be felled even under the pretext of “transplantation” and the botanical garden be preserved in its entirety

c) an Environment Impact Assessment Study and mandatory public hearing precede any construction activity

d) under no circumstances Rani Bagh be closed down, even “partially” or “temporarily”

e)) all detailed master plans, drawings, agreements, statutory permissions and relevant documents for the proposed overhaul be made public

 

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