Because We Have A Full-Blown Forest In Our Midst

January 2, 2012 8:07 am by

Photo: Matthea Osinga.

A few months ago, there was a minor stir when villagers living in Sanjay Gandhi National Park thought they spotted a tiger. The sighting in all probability was a false alarm—the last Bengal tiger, after all, had been sighted 75 years ago—but spoke something of the immense mystery of the 103 square kilometre national park. Such is the lure that even today, naturalists claim that as many as 8,000 species of flora and fauna have yet to be discovered within the dense confines of what is probably the country’s last true urban forest. “One December night in 2007, we were on our way to Kanheri caves,” said Amit Panariya, a conservationist who has been visiting the park since the last seven years. “We spotted some animal, which we thought was a hare but as we closed in, we saw it was a brown hyena. The last one was spotted, as per official records, sometime in the 1970s.” Other than a haven for wannabe Attenboroughs—both the giant atlas moth and rusty spotted cat are native residents—SGNP is also home to the 2,400-year-old Kanheri caves, and occupies close to 17 per cent of Mumbai’s total land area. Its two lakes, Tulsi and Vihar, provide water supply to close to a million Mumbai residents. Today, the Park makes headlines only when wild leopards wander into neighbouring building developments and maul playing children, but its importance to the city cannot be underestimated. Without it, we would be bereft of our green lung, a sprawling haven increasingly under threat from developers and encroachment, and probably the last place in Mumbai where anything—even the existence of a tiger—is still possible.

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