Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hello Leopards

The city of Mumbai with all its congestion has its spots of greenery.It boasts of a wild life sanctuary, affectionately called 'Lungs of Mumbai', named after Sanjay Gandhi,which is centrally located in the suburbs dividing western and central suburbs.A lot of wild life abounds especially Leopards,their numbers increasing to an extent that they are invading the encroachments.[photo on left from mapsofindia.com and below from wikipedia]
Last Sunday evening,I got a call ,in an excited tone from my brother,staying on Ghodbunder road bordering the north eastern side of the National Park.On their evening walk at 6.00,at Sanghvi Hills near the foothills,they spotted 2 wildcats stretching and lazing on a ledge on top of a hill.A crowd had gathered mostly construction workers and they were viewing them through binoculars.On his urgent invitation,we managed to reach there in 45 mins,through the congested traffic,but could not spot the wild cats most likely lions as people described them as yellowish brown in color.Common sighting is of spotted leopards.People were talking about dogs disappearing and workers who were used to sleep outdoors moving indoors now.It is indeed thrilling to spot these wild animals in their natural surroundings,but scary too.This is a spot where many from nearby residencial areas go for a stroll in the evening.[ Photo from mumbainet.com]
Viewed from a larger perspective, this appearance of cheetahs and lions only highlights the issue of rapacious builders intruding too fast on what is essentially a National Sanctuary. It isnt' simply Ghodbunder Road's sides that are being constructed upon anymore, but areas far away from the Road too. Sanghvi Hills is quite a distance away from the main road. Besides, only 3 years ago the entire area was virgin forest land. The politician-builder mafia's might and ruthlessness and malevolence is on full display here. I only hope this doesn't lead to the kinds of incidents we witnessed a couple of years ago in Powai.
Similar things are happening on the western borders of the Park in Borivli where Slums have encroached on their habitat.Attacks on humans is most frequent there as slum dwellers sleep in the open and visit the forest areas for illegal procurement of firewood as well as for their natural calls.
Mumbai requires its bit of greenery and sanctuaries but there seems to be no will to take care of the problem.In the long run people and animals both are going to suffer.In the short term it is the builders politicians and mafia who are going to benefit.


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