Sunday, May 19, 2013

55 acres of barren land to turn into green stretch

MUMBAI: A first-of-its-kind social forestry project in the city is to be launched shortly in suburban Mankhurd on 55.5 acres of barren land.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) plans to pump Rs 1.5 crore into the project, which is aimed at improving the environment as well as the quality of life in the suburb.

To strike a balance between human needs and the environment, the project envisions the creation of public amenities such as playgrounds, creches and toilets along with a green cover.

The endeavour will be undertaken by the social forestry committee headed by suburban district collector Sanjay Deshmukh.

The land identified for the project is near Mankhurd railway station. It adjoins a large slum area, and one side of it is just a few metres from the Mankhurd-Vashi road.

The sprawling open space is today used for defaecation by slum-dwellers. Children from the slums also use it as a play area.

The social forestry project aims to create a slew of social amenities along the periphery of the project area, while environment-friendly initiatives like water recycling will be taken up within the new forest.

"We are creating a boundary (for the forest) with social amenities, such as playgrounds and toilets, and solid waste recycling pits," consultant architect P K Das said. "We will also use the inner area for recycling of waste water by creating water ponds and lagoons."

Space for leisure and relaxation will be ensured by creating forest walkways while social activities will be encouraged along the periphery, said Das.

"We will use the edge of the forest for various social activities for communities living around these forests; there will be samaj mandirs, balwadis, women's welfare centres, creches and public conveniences," Das said. "We hope to engage the slum-dwellers in the development and its subsequent protection of the forest."

Standing committee chairman Rahul Shewale said issues such as garbage disposal would be tackled in an environment-friendly manner with the project while people reaped other benefits like getting streetlights that would run on green electricity.

"This project is in my ward and we had made a token provision of Rs 1 crore during the Open Mumbai exhibition," he said. "Already, there is door-to-door collection of garbage in slums. The compost pits on the periphery of the forest will sort out garbage disposal issues of wards 134, 135 and 136. We will put up a biogas plant to generate electricity for streetlights."

He said Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers (RCF) would be roped in for the operation and maintenance of the project.

The estimated cost of the first phase of the social forestry project is Rs 1 crore.

Das said the project would show that humans benefit from living harmoniously with nature.

"Lagoons essentially facilitate a natural process of treating waste water and nurturing natural flora and fauna, including the growth of the forest," Das said. "We are able to expand the idea of forestry to make it pertinent and beneficial to urban population, more particularly the lower income groups, the middle class and the urban poor. This ought to be a significant socio-environmental movement in the city."