Sunday, November 15, 2015

Maharashtra Nature Park

 Wasteland to wonderland

Maharashtra Nature Park, one of Mumbai’s few green lungs, should be the go-to place for Mumbaikars to spend time and breathe in clean air. Pooja Patel talks to park director Avinash Kubal and finds out how MNP went from being a dumping ground to an oasis offering respite from big city life

When it comes to spending time in the wilderness, most Mumbaikars would head to Sanjay National Gandhi Park (SGNP). But the park is not the only green jewel in the city. Mumbai is among the few global cities that has another green lung – the Maharashtra Nature Park (MNP). This is the place to be in if you wish to lose yourself in quietness and solitude, but don’t want to travel outside the city.

This 37-acre park in the suburb of Sion has plenty to offer, including nature walks and bird watching, and stands tall and proud on land that was once the civic body’s dumping ground.

MNP director Avinash Kubal has been sweating it out for 15 years to make this park in Sion what it is today. His team has changed the face of this wasteland and turned it into a manmade forest with diverse species of birds, plants and insects. “I joined MNP in October 2000 and the idea of setting up this park was to explain to citizens the necessity of conserving natural resources that are being consumed by 12 million people in the city,” says Kubal.

He has spearheaded several eco-friendly projects over the years. The first major project was in 2004, when MNP started rainwater harvesting with the help of 40,000 college students. “After a few years of the set-up, our water bills were up to Rs15 lakh per annum. The water was being used mostly for irrigation purposes. So we started the work of setting it (rainwater harvesting) up with the help of volunteer college students,” he states.

MNP now stores a whopping two crore litres of water, which is used to maintain this mini forest.

In another important initiative, Kubal and his team decided to tackle the problem of waste management. They started a programme with 8,500 rag-pickers who segregate waste. Recyclable waste is forwarded to people who buy this trash for recycling. This not only reduces pressure on the city’s dumping grounds, but also encourages people to reuse and recycle waste when possible.

Concerned about exhaustible or non-renewable energy, MNP has also worked in the area of solar energy and established a solar park on its premises. “It is used for experiments on how solar energy can be used to cook food, supply hot water to houses, and so on. This is shown to the students who visit the park,” Kubal explains.

Talking about what people can look forward to at the park, Kubal lists bird watching, nature trails, workshops and the butterfly garden. Many people have a misconception, he says, that a butterfly park is just a small garden with a few colourful, fluttering insects: “In 2007, we started our butterfly garden project. Having butterflies in your vicinity is beyond aesthetics. Butterflies are direct indicators of clean air, which is really required in this city. As soon as the air quality deteriorates, butterflies vanish.”

No wonder then that MNP is one of the few – and treasured – oases of quiet left in Mumbai.

No comments:

Post a Comment