Maharashtra govt gives financial nod for ‘international-standard’ zoo

MUMBAI :After the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL), armed with a Bombay High Court order in its favour, cut over 2,000 trees in Aarey Colony on October 4, causing a furore among green activists, more trees may be hacked in the area after the state government approved the finances for the construction of an “international-standard” zoo in Aarey.

The forest department, in a government resolution (GR) on October 9, approved a grant of Rs 60 lakh for the conservation wall of the zoo.

The wall will be constructed in the Tulsi forest area and the border of Marol, east of Goregaon in Borivali’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and Aarey. This will provide protection and demarcation of the zoo’s planned site.

The state, in July, had inked a pact with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to set up an international-standard zoo at Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon.

While some trees will also be hacked for the construction, the GR does not mention the number. The government has handed 190 acres of land in Aarey—the city’s green lungs —for the project, which has been in the pipeline since 2009. The project’s total cost is estimated to be Rs 500 crore and it is expected to be completed in four to five years.

The Aarey arm of the existing Byculla zoo plans to offer a jungle safari as an attraction and host a captive breeding programme for conservation  of endangered species. The zoo plans to receive several animals under its exchange programme with other zoos across the country.

The locals, or adivasis, had objected to and protested the state government’s move to allot a plot in Aarey for the zoo as many stand to lose their land because of it. Environmentalists had demanded that the entire Aarey Colony should be declared a reserve forest and be merged with the neighbouring SGNP, instead of constructing a zoo.

The BMC will soon appoint a project management consultant and prepare a comprehensive master plan for the zoo, which will be executed from its own resources. However, the net revenues will be shared by the civic body and the forest department