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Sanjay Gandhi National Park
SGNP, Borivali National Park
IUCN Category II (National Park)
SGNP is green area in north of Mumbai
Sanjay Gandhi National Park
Location of Sanjay Gandhi National Park
in Maharashtra and India
Coordinates 19°15′00″N 72°55′00″E / 19.25°N 72.9166667°E / 19.25; 72.9166667
Country  India
State Maharashtra
District(s) Mumbai City
Mumbai Suburban
Established 1969
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
Area
Elevation
104 km2 (40 sq mi)[1]
480 m (1,575 ft)
Climate
Precipitation
Temperature
• Summer
• Winter
Aw (Köppen)
     2,457 mm (96.7 in)

     33.3 °C (92 °F)
     16.3 °C (61 °F)
Governing body Ministry of Environment and Forests,
Maharashtra State Forest Dept.
Visitation 2008
Entry fee Rs. 20. per adult
(Private vehicles access is limited)
Website Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), previously Borivali National Park,[2], is a large protected area on the northern fringes of suburban Mumbai city in Maharashtra State in India.[3] It encompasses an area of 104 km2 (40 sq mi) and is surrounded on three sides by India's most populous city.[4] It is notable as one of the few national parks existing within a metropolis limit in Asia and is one of the most visited parks in the world[3] It also enjoys the distinction of being the largest urban park in the world.[citation needed]

The rich flora and fauna of Sanjay Gandhi National Park attracts more than 2 million visitors every year. Tourists also enjoy visiting the 2400 years old Kanheri caves sculpted out of the rocky cliffs which lie within the park.

The undulating green lands of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park have a natural environment which tourists love to retreat to for moments of quiet introspection or meditation. The great views of forests, hills, valleys, lakes and open expanses have a therapeutic effect on mind, body and soul.[5]

Contents

History

7 m. tall Buddha statue at entrance to the largest Kanheri cave

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park area has a long written history dating back to the 4th century BCE. In ancient India, Sopara and Kalyan were two ports in the vicinity that traded with ancient civilizations such as Greece and Mesopotamia. The 45 km (28 mi) land route between these two ports was partially through this forest.[6]

The Kanheri Caves in the centre of the park were an important Buddhist learning centre and pilgrimage site sculpted by Buddhist monks between the 1st century BCE and the 9th century BCE.[7] They were chiseled out of a massive basaltic rock outcropping.[8]

The park was named 'Krishnagiri National Park' in the pre-independence era. At that time the area of the park was only 20.26 km2 (7.82 sq mi). In 1969, the park was expanded to its present size by acquiring various reserve forest properties adjoining the park. After this, an independent unit of the Forest Department called 'Borivali National Park Sub-division' administered the area. Krishnagiri National Park was created in 1974 and later renamed as 'Borivali National Park'. In 1981, it was re-dedicated as 'Sanjay Gandhi National Park' in memory of Sanjay Gandhi, the son of ex Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi, who was killed in an air crash in 1980.

Geography

Rivers in the park

The park is nestled in the hill ranges around the suburb of Borivali. It occupies most of the northern suburbs. To the west lie the townships of Goregaon, Malad, Kandivali, Borivali and Dahisar. To the east lie the townships of Bhandup and Mulund. To the south lies the Aarey Milk Colony. The northern reaches of a this forest lie in Thane district. The park and these areas surrounding it are all part of the Mumbai metropolitan area.

The region is hilly with elevations between 30 m (98 ft) and 480 m (1,570 ft). The Park encompasses two lakes, Vihar Lakeand Tulsi Lake, which meet part of the city's water requirements. The park is said to be the lungs of the city as it purifies much of the air pollution of the city.

Biodiversity

Dense Forest

The park is a bustling forest. An estimated 800 types of flowering plants; 284 kinds of birds; 5,000 species of insects; 36 types of mammals; 62 reptiles and 150 species of butterfly call the forest their home. The park has also many endangered species of plant and animal. The world's largest moth, the Atlas moth, was discovered here. Karvi or Karvy also known as Strobilanthes Callosa to the Botanists is a flowering plant which blooms once in 8 years, carpeting the slopes with a shade of mauve. This plant is native to this and the surrounding regions of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, including Karnala, the Yeoor hills, Tungareshwar and some parts of Goregaon’s Film City. The park is also home to a small population of leopards.

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Flora and fauna

Leopard at SGNP

The park is home to a number of endangered species of flora and fauna. The forest area of the Park houses over 1000 plant species, 251 species of migratory, land and water birds, 5,000 species of insects, 40 species of mammals. In addition, the Park also provides shelter to 38 species of reptiles, 9 species of amphibians and also 150 species of butterflies and a large variety of fishes.[4][9]

Flora: Kadamba, teak, karanj, shisam, and species of acacia, ziziphus, euphorbia, flame of the forest, red silk cotton and a number of other varieties of flowers. Karvi or Karvy, a flowering plant that flowers once in seven years, can be found in the Park.

Chital (Spotted deer) at SGNP

Fauna: The forest cover in the park helps provide the ideal habitat for many wild animals. Chital (or spotted deer), Rhesus Macaque and Bonnet Macaque are some of the wild mammals that can easily be spotted roaming inside the park. Other large mammals found in the park are: Black Naped or Indian Hare, Muntjac (Barking Deer), Porcupine, Asian Palm Civet, Chevrotain (Mouse Deer), Hanuman or Gray Langur, Indian Flying-fox, Sambar Deer and Leopard. One can also spot hyena or four-horned antelope.

Reptiles living here include:crocodiles in the Tulsi Lake, pythons, cobras, monitor lizards, Russell's Vipers, Bamboo Pit Viper and Ceylonese Cat Snakes.[4]

Butterflies which may be seen here include the spectacular Blue Mormon, the phenomenal artist of camouflage the Blue Oak leaf, the bright jezebels and Large Yellow and White Orange tips, Monarchs, Egg flies and Sailers.

Avian-Fauna: Some of the birds one may see in the park are: Jungle Owlets, golden orioles, racket-tailed drongos, minivets, magpies, robins, hornbills, bulbuls, sunbirds, peacock, and woodpeckers. Migratory and local birds such as paradise flycatcher and various species of kingfishers, mynas, drongos, swifts, gulls, egrets, and herons have also been spotted.[4]

Wild tiger

In 2003, pug marks and droppings of a Bengal tiger were found in the park. Although the tiger was never widely seen[10][11], it did bring some excitement to city folks as records of tiger being found here are quite old and forgotten now with the last tiger being shot down 80 years earlier in the region[12]. Conservation was also proposed for the interlinking habitat corridors and nearby wilderness areas in the state and upgrade their status as Tiger habitat[13].

Mass flowering of Karvi

The Karvi shrub, as it is locally called in the Marathi language, sometimes also spelled as Karvy in English, only blooms once in eight years in a mass flowering covering the forest floor in a lavender blush. It grows in abundance in the Western ghats hills near Mumbai including throughout the Sanjay Gandhi National Park as in other parts of its natural range. In Sanjay Gandhi National Park its latest bloomings took place in 2008, and it is scheduled to bloom here again in 2016. Termed by nature enthusiasts as 'nature's miracle' its maximum bloom can be seen on some of the inner paths and trails that lie undisturbed in the park. It survives best on vast slopy expanses on the hillsides with Kanheri caves area of the park being one of the best places to observe large areas of blooms.[14][15]

In the state of Maharashtra, the mass flowering of Karvi has been observed to occur in Mumbai the same year as in the hill station of Khandala and one year earlier in Bhimashankar and Malshej Ghat, beyond Kalyan[16]. Near Mumbai, the Karvi is also found in Karnala, the Yeoor hills, Tungareshwar and some parts of Goregaon including Film City.[15]

Threats

Leopard in mini zoo at SGNP

The park has faced a number of problems similar to those faced by national parks elsewhere in the world, involving conflicts between natural and human interests.

In the early 1970s a road, as proposed, would have cut through the park. Naturalist Humayun Abdulali went to court to halt this project.

The lack of space in Mumbai has pushed residential colonies right up to the park boundary. This boundary is poorly fenced and has often allowed wild animals into human habitations. Slums have mushroomed around the park as well. Corruption among local politicians and Mumbai's influential builder lobby are commonly seen as responsible for a perceived shrinking of the park.

In June 2004, leopards were responsible for the deaths of 20 humans within the span of a week. This was not the first attack. For the past 10 years there have been attacks attributed to leopards stalking children and adults outside the park fringes. After an outcry was raised and the situation reached alarming proportions, eight leopards were caught and relocated.

Tourism

SGNP view from Highest Point Trail
Buddhist caves at Kanheri

Sanjay Gandhi National Park is said to be one of the most visited National Parks in Asia. According to estimates, around 2 million visitors visit this park annually. Collection at the gates in November 2004 touched Rs 98 lakh (9.8 million rupees).

The Krishnagiri Upavan is an area of approximately 5.5 km2 (2.12 sq mi) reserved as an easily accessible public recreation zone inside the park. The remaining core area has restricted access. Among the several attractions of the Krishnagiri Upavan is a mini-zoo where visitors can view animals up close. There is a crocodile park where one can easily view different sizes of these reptiles all at one place. The lion and tiger safaris educate and guide visitors through the natural habitats of these animals. A narrow gauge train travels around the tourist zone showcasing parts of the rich biodiversity. There a boating facility where visitors can rent a 2 person peddle powered boat for Rs.15 per 15 minute increment at19°13′46″N 72°52′8″E / 19.22944°N 72.86889°E / 19.22944; 72.86889. Two watchtowers are available for panoramic views of the park.[17]

Many visitors also travel to the Kanheri Caves, especially on an auspicious day in August. Nature trails and treks are also popular. Rock climbing enthusiasts often come to national park. Many rock faces around the National Park and the Kanheri Caves offer a great opportunity for rock climbers.

Vanrani narrow gauge train

Narrow gauge train

The Park also features a "toy train" that runs on a narrow gauge railway. The toy train Van rani, which means Jungle Queen, runs for around twenty-five years. It was discontinued in 2001 because of the poor condition of the track. The circuitous route covers a 2.5 km (1.55 mi) distance. However in 2004, fresh bids were announced for the repair of the track, which was estimated to cost around Rs 30 lakh (Rs 3 million). The tracks have been repaired and the train is now operational. The fun train ride of about 15 minutes takes you along the foothills of the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial on 190 m (620 ft) Pavilion Hill, traverses a couple of bridges and tunnels and passes over the Deer Park. There is another such "toy train" experience around 90 km (55.92 mi) from Mumbai. This is the Matheran Hill Railway toy train that winds 20 km (12.43 mi) uphill through the forest from Neral to Matheran, a hill station,90 km (55.92 mi) from Mumbai.

Tiger Safari and Lion Safari

Sleeping Lion at SGNP Lion Safari

Main attractions of the park are a Lion Safari and a Tiger Safari for encouraging Eco-tourism[18]. The Lion safari is a 20 minute ride through a 12 ha (29.65 acres) fenced forest area in one of the park's green buses. There are about 25 lions which visitors can saftely see up close from inside the caged buses. During visiting hours, some of the resident lions are let out into the enclosure, and can be viewed from the safety of the bus. There are 4 tigers that are kept semi-confined in a 20 ha (49.42 acres) fenced area that is toured by the buses. A 5 m (16.40 ft) high and 2,200 m (7,217.85 ft) long protective fencing surrounds the area. This is done so that all visitors can safely view lions and tigers in their natural habitat.[17] Here the visitors are caged in the bus so the big cats can roam like in the wild. Two other tigers roam in a much larger area.

Walking trails

The path to Kanheri

There are several public walking trails in the park. The popular Ashok Van trail winds up through thick forest to a dense cluster of Ashoka trees that are a welcome half way resting spot. One can return by Gaumukh trail to an open place of volcanic rock to return to the Kanheri caves. A more ambitious route is the 'View Point' trail to the highest point in Mumbai, for a panoramic view of the city and a view of the three lakes of the city - Tulsi, Vihar and Powai Lake. New jungle trails at Sanjay Gandhi National Park allow visitors to see the more unexplored parts of the park. They are the 4 km (2.49 mi) Shiloda Trail, the 5 km (3.11 mi) Malad Trail, and the 6 km (3.73 mi) Yeoor Trail. Trails access cost is Rs.25 per person.[19]

Local conservation NGOs such as the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS)[15] and World Wide Fund for Nature - India (WWF-India)[16] bring groups of urban residents from Mumbai and elsewhere, sometimes in collaboration with other organizations, for regular guided nature education walks in the nature trails of Sanjay Gandhi National Park[20][21] and organize special trips when the rare Karvi flowers are in full bloom which only happens once every eight years[14].

Jain temple

Vihara prayer hall, one of the larger Kanheri caves
monkey near Kanheri Caves

In the forest there is a famous Jain temple called Trimurti. This temple is widely visited by Digambar sect of Jain community. It has huge 3 idols of lord Adinathh and his two sons, lord Bahubali and lord Bharat. Many Muni maharaj (Jain Saints) do stay here to preach the followers before moving ahead to other city or town.

Kanheri caves

The Kanheri Caves are a protected archaeological site at 19°12′30″N 72°54′23″E / 19.20833°N 72.90639°E / 19.20833; 72.90639. The caves were sculpted by Buddhist residents starting in the 1st century BCE. The area was actually a settlement and once served as inns for travellers. The word Kanheri comes from the Sanskrit word Krishnagiri which means Black Mountain.

Access

The Park entrance is located in the eastern section of Borivali, .9 km (0.56 mi) from Borivali station, which is 40 km (25 mi) north of Mumbai Central station, with suburban trains running every 5 minutes. From Borivali station, one can walk or hire an auto rickshaw to reach Sanjay Gandhi National Park. It is well connected with all parts of Mumbai and Maharashtra by road. The Western Express Highway (NH 8) passes by the park entrance. Buses are available on holidays and Sundays from Mumbai to the Park. Also, chartered vehicles can be hired for groups to visit the park.

The nearest airport is Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Santa Cruz 18 km (11 mi)from the Park. Nearest railway station is at Borivali, which is connected to Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) and Mumbai Central Railway terminus. Local trains regularly ply betweenChurchgate and Borivali station.

Visitor fees

Lion and tiger safaris booking office sign

As of October 2009, the following fees are being charged to the visitors of the park

  • Entrance to the National Park: Rs. 30/person, plus Rs. 90/private vehicle
  • The Tiger and Lion safari (20 minute ride in a park bus): Rs 60/adult. Rs. 15/child.
  • Van Rani - The narrow gauge train (20 minutes round trip): Rs 15/adult, Rs 7/child below 12 years old.
  • Kanheri Caves - Rs. 5/Indian citizens, Rs. 100/others.
  • Trails access - Rs.25/adult

Four forest rest houses and two camp sheds are available within the park area for visitors' accommodation. For advance booking contact: Deputy Conservator of Forests, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali (East), Mumbai 400 066, India. Phones :91-22-28860716 : 91-22-28860389[4]

References

  1. ^ "Mumbai Plan". Department of Relief and Rehabilitation (Government of Maharashtra). http://mdmu.maharashtra.gov.in/pages/Mumbai/mumbaiplanShow.php. Retrieved 2009-04-29. 
  2. ^ Why deny our British past; 10 January 2002; Mid-DAY Newspaper
  3. ^ a b A real jungle in a concrete one; EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE; June 4, 1998; The Indian Express & A real jungle within a concrete jungle; May 28, 1998; ; The Indian Express
  4. ^ a b c d e "Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali, Mumbai.". Wildlife/National Parks. Maharashtra State Forest Department. http://www.mahaforest.nic.in/SNGPborivali.htm. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  5. ^ "SANJAY GANDHI NATIONAL PARK (SGNP)". Mumbai. India Infoweb. 2007. http://www.indiainfoweb.com/maharashtra/wildlife/sanjay-gandhi-national-park.html. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  6. ^ "Historical Information". Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Sanjaygandhinationalpark.net.. http://www.sanjaygandhinationalpark.net/history.html. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  7. ^ "Kanheri Caves". http://www.bhramanti.com/kanheri.html.. Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  8. ^ "Mumbai's Ancient Kanheri Caves". http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?menu=c10400&no=326138&rel_no=1. Retrieved 2007-01-31. 
  9. ^ Mirza, Zeeshan. & Pal, Saunak. (2008) A checklist of reptiles and amphibians of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai, Maharashtra. Cobra, II (4), 14–19.
  10. ^ Tigress caught on video at Sanjay Gandhi National Park; PTI; June 26, 2003;rediff.com
  11. ^ Big cat back in Mumbai forest after a gap of 75 years; Gulf News; by Pamela Raghunath; May 28, 2003,A tiger in Mumbai after 83 years; MIDDAY (Mumbai); 26 June 2003, Mumbai leaps into tiger territory; Gulf News; By Pamela Raghunath, Correspondent; July 2, 2003,Tigertracking - On the trail of a tiger (Panthera tigiris) (2003); by Mayur N. Kamath; Tiger filmed in the forests of Mumbai's Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) by Mayur N. Kamath who is currently Chairman of the Wildlife Images and Reflections (WIR)
  12. ^ A tiger on Malabar Hill; Sep 4, 2009; Livemint.com - The Wall Street Journal; HT Media; Hindustan Times, 2009 Book: Living Jewels of Indian Jungle, published by BNHS, 204 pages, to tigers - `Tigers of Salsette Island'; Book Review: India's natural history; by Meena Menon; Aug 30, 2005; The Hindu - India's National Newspaper, Book: TREASURES OF INDIAN WILDLIFE: Ashok S. Kothari, Boman F. Chhapgar — Editors; Produced by Marg Publications for Bombay Natural History Society; 2005
  13. ^ NEWSLINE SPECIAL: Once in Pune forests: Tiger, tiger burning bright, by Madhav Gokhale; May 26, 2003; The Indian Express Newspaper, Tiger may expand boundaries of park; TNN; 5 July 2003; Times of india
  14. ^ a b Nature lovers on the Karvy trail; TNN, 22 September 2008; The Times of India
  15. ^ a b c City gears for lavender Karvi’s once-in-eight-years bloom; by Nitya Kaushik; Aug 12, 2008; The Indian Express Newspaper
  16. ^ a b The Karvy blooms; By Shantanu Chhaya; 24 July 2000; Bombay Edition: Bombay Times; Times of India Supplement. A copy of this original Newspaper article is posted online at "mumbai-central.com": [1]
  17. ^ a b "Sanjay Gandhi National Park Safari". maharashtratourism.net. http://www.maharashtratourism.net/safari/lion-and-tiger-safari-at-sanjay-gandhi-national-park.html. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  18. ^ To spot the Bengal tigers, visit Borivali National Park; by Nitya Kaushik; May 16, 2008; The Indian Express Newspaper
  19. ^ Cook, Sharell (1-10-2009). "New Nature Trails at Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai". About.com:India Travel (The New York Times Company.). http://goindia.about.com/b/2009/01/10/new-nature-trails-at-sanjay-gandhi-national-park-in-mumbai.htm. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  20. ^ Wet and Wild; by Nitya Kaushik; Jun 15, 2009; The Indian Express
  21. ^ BNHS~ WWF to prevent garbage at Borivali park; 11 March 2002; Mid-DAY Newspaper

Parts of the article referred to from the Times of India article dated July 5, 2004

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