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Mahim Nature Park

Introduction It is a sad fact that Mumbai is suffering from the ill effects of harboring a concrete Jungle. The noise, and teeming crowds are only a few of its problems. The picture is turning even more bad for this city due to the establishment of industries and also the increase of vehicles on the road. However, some genuine efforts are made by conscious citizens to change the scenario for Mumbai by actively promoting the establishment of Nature parks. The Mahim Nature Park in Mumbai is an excellent example of the fulfillment of these efforts. This charming park is going great lengths to preserve and promote the protection of Wildlife in Mumbai. When people come today to the Mahim Nature Park they find it difficult to believe that, the forest they see before their very eyes was once a city garbage dump. But that is exactly what it was less than 20 years ago. Conceived by the WWF-India in the late 1970s, an area of about 37 acres in the "H" Block of Bandra-Kurla Complex, which was earlier a garbage dump or land fill, was decided to be ecologically restored and developed as a Nature Park by MMRDA. Located on Bandra-Sion Link Road and on the Southern bank of Mithi River (which starts from Borivali National Park highlands skirting the airport and meets the Arabian Sea at Mahim Bay and which is one of the major drainages of Mumbai),this mini-forest is nothing short of a miracle. Apart from being a vital green lung for pollution-ridden Mumbai, the Mahim Nature Park also offers Mumbai's citizens a welcome change from the din and hustle of city life.

History of Mahim Nature Park Situated near Dharavi, Asia's largest slum, Maharashtra Nature Park comes across as a breath of fresh air. This educational park was the brainchild of Shanta Chatterji, a busy corporate lawyer and the chairperson of World Wildlife Fund (WWF). As a citizen she is very much concerned about environment conservation, which is deteriorating and needs immediate action. The thought struck her in 1976. One day while passing through the Bandra-Kurla junction, she was struck by the different varieties of birds that flocked the creek. The awesome sight of those migratory birds did the needful. On further inquiry she realised that the area was host to 55 species of birds. This propelled her to speak to the government and get the area earmarked as a bird sanctuary. Luckily the blueprint of her plan was passed by the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC), which entrusted her with land for the project. In those days the land adjacent to the creek was simply used as a dumping ground for waste. Thus developed the 37 acre Mahim Nature Park, which today stands testimony to the 12 long years of hard work put in by her and her team. The park was opened for school children in 1992. Two years later they began allowing general public to visit the park. Every year, around 1.5 lakh people visit this park, which has 580 species of plants, houses 123 species of birds (as recorded), more than 78 types of butterflies, 22 varieties of reptiles and amphibian and more than 30 species of spiders. Further elucidating the cause for which she has set up the huge project, Chatterji says philosophically, "We first conceived the idea of a park, the first of the kind in India, which would showcase different varieties of trees, found in India. From there we proceeded to drive home the point that anything detrimental to nature can cause a lot of harm to human life." "Trees emanate an aura, just like we human beings do. There is a place known as the Astral garden in the park, which has trees that correspond with the 27 rashis and 27 nakshatras. Sitting under one of the trees that corresponds with your sign helps you calm down and gives you a lot of peace," she says talking about the therapeutic value of trees. The managing director of Mahim Nature Park, Mhaskar who has been with this project since its conceptualization, feels that the park has been a boon to school children."Initially it was planned for school kids. But when we realized that we needed finances for setting up an amphitheatre, library, etc., we had to open the park to other visitors too. We charge Rs 5 as entrance fee from the visitors. Also the sale proceeds from ayurvedic plants grown in the park, adds to our finances. However, a lot of people still are not aware of the existence of this park. We have to bring about more awareness about the park. They just look upon Dharavi as a slum area," he adds.

According to Mhaskar the major achievement of the park has been its ability to stop encroachment. "This park is nothing but a social obligation to stop the nuisance of public encroachment. And that has been our greatest achievement." A peepal tree stands guard at the entrance of the park. "It is the life giving tree so it is at the entrance," explains Chatterji. A few meters away is an area earmarked for medicinal plants found in various parts of India. It is awesome to see such a variety in one place. Further down there is an area where fruits and vegetables are grown. A place has been earmarked for bird watchers near the creek from where they can watch the various species. The best time to watch the birds is the crack of sunset, when one can see them flocking together. One can also take a leisurely stroll on 'Shantipath', a walkway that runs through the entire length of the park. Right in the centre of the park is a sun-shaped building, which houses amongst others an amphitheatre, a library, an audio-visual room, etc. Anyone can borrow books as well as audiovisual tapes for further reference. The building also boasts of a mural called the 'web of life', painted by the well-known painter from Delhi, Mr. Krishan Khanna. 'The web of life' has paintings of the earth, sun, fire, moon and space. 'The core of our existence,' is how Chatterji sums up the mural. This park is definitely an institution for environment lovers. Each place is an eye opener. Chatterji speaks like a through tree lover when she says, "Planting five trees by each family will be an ideal way to increase the green cover. I am not against cutting trees for wood, as long as we can return back to nature what we take from it."

Knowing - Mahim Nature Park Today experts from around the world visit the Mahim Nature Park to study how so many trees could grow on a dumping ground used for decades by the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai. Naturalists from the Bombay Natural History Society and the World Wide Fund for Nature-India confirm that Mahim Nature Park plays host to about 38 species of butterflies and more than 80 species of birds. What is more, as many as 200 tree species have been listed, many naturally planted by birds and insects. When you walk in the precincts of the Mahim Nature Park you will see numerous insects, amphibians and reptiles and together with the many species of fungi that thrive, the place has a feel of true woodland. On the periphery of the Park is, the Mahim Creek, which supports a lush evergreen mangrove forest. This estuarine vegetation and the surrounding mud flats are favorite roosting spots for migratory and aquatic birds that winter in the Indian subcontinent. Due to this Mahim Nature Park has become a particularly popular spot for birdwatchers from mid-October all the way to

February-March. Though the water of the Mithi River is very polluted, the Mahim Nature Park and the surrounding mangroves provide resting spots for thousands of birds and on any winter morning, with gentle mists rising, the surrounds provide an ethereal visage for visitors. The park authorities also conduct nature trails. The rooftop rainwater harvesting system stores around 2,000 kilolitres of water every monsoon, which is used to irrigate the vegetation in the park.

Place: Bandra-Sion Link Road, Mahim, Maharashtra Major Attraction: Many species of birds, butterflies and trees. Area Covered: 37 acres Ideal Time to Visit the Park: From mid-October to February-March

Things to know about Mahim Nature Park

Where is the Mahim Nature Park? Located on the southern bank of Mithi River, and at Bandra-Sion Link Road, the Mahim Nature Park lie at Mahim, close to Mumbai, the commercial capital of India. Though the nature park is near Dharavi, which is said to be the largest slum of Asia, yet the nature park contains its natural beauty in its most pristine way and has become a favorable escape from pollution-ridden city life of Mumbai. Climate in the Mahim Nature Park The moderate climate at Mahim Nature Park in all seasons make it a pleasant abode to several species of birds, butterflies and trees. From March to October, the climate of the region is a bit hot, which begins to cool after October. Important dates in Mahim Nature Park history Earlier being the garbage dump, the place was conceived by WWF-India to be a nature park in 1976. MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority) undertook the project to restore and develop the place as sophisticated nature park. The flora and fauna in the Mahim Nature Park Said to be the Green Lung of Mumbai, the Mahim Nature Park provides us a very pleasant escape from the pollution-ridden life of the city. Being fine abode to several species of flora and fauna, the park is visited mostly by nature lovers. As you enter the threshold of the park, you begin wondering how so much greenery can originate

close to the place, which is the biggest slum of Asia. More to wonder, the rich greenery of the nature park maintains proudly to boasts of its 200 species of trees. The mangrove evergreen forest causes plenty of species of birds, butterflies, insects and fungi to thrive in the park. Beyond counting approx 200 species of trees, the park has 38 species of butterflies and 80 species of birds. Between October and March, the park becomes a very favorite spot for bird watchers, as one can see thousands of birds hovering over the Mithi River and in the park.

Objective, Activities & Facilities - Mahim Nature Park For the development and management of the Park, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority has promoted a society, known as Maharashtra Nature Park society. This society is responsible for day-to-day management and activities of the Park. The Society has an apex body of "Board of Governors" of which the Chief Secretary to the Govt. of Maharashtra is the President and the Co-President is Shri Bittu Sahgal. It has a representation of several top government officials as well as some eminent personalities from the field of Environment. Thus the Government is working hand in hand with the scientific community. The Park Aims:a) To provide the citizens of Mumbai a quick change to relatively green and unpolluted area. b) To educate the people, particularly children in Ecology and Nature Conservation. The Maharashtra Nature Park has the following facilities for conducting the educational activities:a) Audio-Visual hall b) Exhibition hall. c) Activity spaces for conducting various activities like nature games, drawing or painting competitions, etc. d) Open air Amphitheatre e) Library of more than 500 books on nature and Environment related topics. f) Nursery for growing and sale of plants.

Presently Maharashtra Nature Park has the following sections:-

i. Education Centre ii. Nursery, iii. Wooded Area Section, iv. Medicinal Plants cultivation Section, v. Palm Section, vi. Fruit Tree Section, vii. Vegetable Section, viii. Aquarium, ix. Bird Observation Point, x. Vermi composting demonstration Project. Maharashtra Nature Park is conducting following activities: (i) Nature Trail, (ii) Nature Games, (iii) Study of Medicinal Plants, (iv) Bird Watching, (v) Seminars/Workshops/Lectures, and (vi) Drawing and Essay competitions.

Inside Maharashtra Nature Park

Not more than 30 years old, this 35 to 40 acre land was a pure garbage dumping area with no trees. The eye opening location of this park being on other side of road is the dharavi slums and just opposite is this green heaven with a different climate and temperature you can feel, thats the beauty of mother earth. It will take about 2 to 3 hours completely to check every plant, bird, insects and those reptiles inside this green woodland. The once Mahim nature park full of garbage is now a green park with about thousands of trees, and since it is in middle of city with concrete high skylines around, it attracts varieties of local birds and also season migratory birds from far in the country, so dont forget to get along your binoculars to watch those beautiful birds. Birds To feel the climate of this green heaven on your skin it is recommended to reach here early in morning when the nature park is opened at 9:30 am, and this is the time this park attracts major birds. So if you are one of those bird watching lovers, go along with the ranger who will guide you to the flora and faunas inside the nature park with nominal charges. Laughing Dove, Black kite, Greater Coucal, Shikara, Great Egret, Eurasian Wryneck, Purple Sunbird, Little Green Bee Eater, Blue throat and Barn swallow birds are some of those migratory birds that your can see inside during morning and evening times. Plants MNP attracts plant lovers too, with a wide range of about 300 variety of plants with some rare having herbal qualities, explore this park with ranger who will guide you to each of this important plant as shown on his map. Official of Maharashtra nature park now grow the varieties of plant endemic in nature. All this plant with flora and faunas around attracts those tiny beautiful butterflies in group which is an unexpected experience in Mumbai city. Teak, Golden Apple trees, Lasora, Bottle brusk oak, flame of the forest, devils tree, Kokk, Kadamba, Soccer ball are some of the plants in this green park. Reptiles The lake inside the park attracts species of water birds nad reptiles too, major species that can be seen here is Russells viper, Rat snake, The dangerous cobra and the green vine snake along the lake corners quite natural since there are varieties of frogs and insects like Chameleon, Northern house Gecko and Garden Lizards too. Water birds like Greater spotted eagle, Ring Necked parakeets, Asian Pied Starling, mahratta Woodpeckers and Barn owl are some of them seen in nature park. Butterflies

Enjoy them flying in groups, rarely seen anywhere inside or near Mumbai city, you can see species of butterflies like Commander, Black Rajah, Blue Tiger, Blue Oak leaf, Lime Butterfly, White Orange tip, Common Rose, Psyche, The Pioneer, Baronet and some of those found at MNP. Mammals Nature attracts everyone to it and Mammals are not left out in this park. Those fruit bats, Mongooses (Enemy of snakes) and those quick running striped squirrels are among some of those mammals inside MNP near lake.

Visiting - Mahim Nature Park The Park visitors are provided a guide cum interpretation facility on request (for which advance intimation is necessary). For group visit and further queries please contact the office of the Dy. Director, MNPS, Maharashtra Nature Park Society, Maharashtra Nature Park, Near Dharavi Bus Depot, Opp. P.M.G.P. Colony, Dharavi, Mumbai - 400 017. (407 7641/407 9939, E-mail: mnps@bom7.vsnl.net.in) How to reach the Mahim Nature ParkAir: Mumbai has own international airport, which is linked very well with several international as well as domestic locations. Rail: Mumbai is very well connected to other parts of the country by Rail Road: The nature park of Mahim lies opposite to the bus stand of Dharavi. Reaching here take a short drive from Mumbai. One can either hire a taxi or can catch local transport to reach the Dharavi bus stand.
Address : Maharashtra Nature Park, Next to Dharavi Bus Depot, Dharavi, Bandra Sion Link Road, Mumbai 400017 Land Mark : opposite PMGP Colony. Parking : Yes parking space is available at Mahim Nature Park. Charges and Timings

Park can be visited by anybody from Monday to Saturday between 9:30 am to 6 pm and the entry
fees is Rs.5/- per head. If you are planning to visit on Sundays or any national public holidays you need to take prior permission and intimate them first) Contact Numbers022-24077641 / 022-24079939 ( ISD code for India is 91)

A Park with A Difference - Mahim Nature Park In Mumbai This charming park is going great lengths to preserve and promote the protection of Wildlife in Mumbai. The Mahim Nature Park in Mumbai is an educational Park. It is actively involved in the preservation of wildlife not just in Mumbai, but also in India. This is also the ultimate place in Mumbai, which offers the view of exotic birds and different varieties of trees in their natural surroundings. Undoubtedly, it is an ideal tourist destination in Mumbai, as it not only entertains, but also leaves the visitors with a will to protect the environment, which is a big achievement in itself.