Mumbai, March 21 : Mahatashtra’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party came under fire on Wednesday from its ally Shiv Sena, the Opposition and environmentalists for its proposal to include a portion of the famed Mahim Nature Park as part of the redevelopment of Dharavi, Asia’s biggest slum.
Five cabinet ministers – Subhash Desai, Diwakar Raote, Ramdas Kadam, Deepak Sawant, Eknath Shinde – and the Sena’s chief whip Sunil Prabhu submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis late on Tuesday, demanding withdrawal of the February 28 notification issued by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority and an assurance that the nature park’s land would not be utilized by Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority for redevelopment purposes.
Building up pressure, Yuva Sena President Aditya Thackeray visited MNP on Wednesday morning and attacked the move to convert the green corridor into a concrete jungle. His visit came on the occasion of World Forest Day which is being celebrated globally.
“The MNP must remain a nature park always. Destruction of environment cannot be called ‘development.’ If the MMRDA cannot manage, then hand it over to the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation. We will keep it beautiful,” he said.
Decrying what he termed as “monetising of Mumbai’s open spaces”, Thackeray pointed out that more than four decades ago, the MNP, spread over nearly 42 acres, was a dumping ground for garbage on which the park was developed.
“Now the government wants to make it a concrete dumping ground and hand it over to builders. Is the CM aware of all this? If yes, why there is no objection to chopping down trees,” he asked.
Former union minister Milind Deora, of the Congress, also castigated the plans saying never before has the Maharashtra government held a brief for builders and brazenly tried to encroach on Mumbai’s open spaces.
“MNP today, Priyadarshini Park tomorrow. Wake up Mumbai. Let’s reclaim our public spaces by getting rid of these crooks,” Deora tweeted.
According to the SRA’s plans, the nature park – a part of which is a notified forest – is proposed to be included in the Dharavi redevelopment project to increase the land availability.
A notification was issued in February inviting suggestions/objections from the public for the proposal involving resettlement of around 60,000 slum tenements in planned habitats over five sectors.
The SRA move – which would increase the land availability for the Dharavi redevelopment project from 155 to 172 hectares – came even as Fadnavis warned against misuse or commercialization of the open spaces in the city.
Developed painstakingly from a dumping ground adjacent to the Mahim Creek for a decade, the MNP was opened for public in 1992 and now over 150,000 people visit it annually. Part of it was declared a protected forest in 1991.
An oasis of greenery in the heart of the city, the MNP houses 580 species of plants, 123 recorded birds species, 78 types of butterflies, 22 species of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 30 species of spiders and other insects.