Weekend family picnics to Kanheri caves in your car are soon going to become a thing of the past as the forest department plans to ban all private vehicles inside the National Park by the end of December. They will instead bring in special battery operated or CNG buses for ferrying visitors.
This is being done to minimise noise and air pollution caused by private vehicles and irresponsible tourists, which affect the forest and its wildlife.
Sunil Limaye, director, Sanjay Gandhi National Park said that the proposal for the same has already been sent and it should take about a month for the idea to be implemented. “We have an understanding with the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) about supplying buses which will ply between the Kanheri Caves and the main gate of the park. Four battery powered or CNG-fuelled buses will be operated every 30 minutes from 9 am to 5 pm on weekends and holidays which witness a large rush of visitors,” he said.
The ticket for a single journey will cost Rs30 and there would be two buses on weekdays. Limaye added that they also plan to begin online bookings to combat the rush is during weekends.
Presently, there is just one bus to ferry visitors between the caves and the main gate. It is sparingly used as most people bring their private vehicles as that allows for faster and more convenient movement inside the forest. It also leads to more illegal stoppages.
“Too much plastic and waste is thrown around and overspeeding, which disturbs the animals. Once the bus service starts, we will ban all private vehicles,” said Limaye.
Additional Principal Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), A K Nigam, said, “In the first stage, we will introduce four buses and look at the response. The concept is regulating movement of vehicles and visitors inside the park to help in ecological conservation of the park.”
Visitors to the park had mixed reactions about the plan. Ninad Mokal, 35, a resident of Dahisar, who visits the park once in two months with his family in his car said, “It’s a bad idea. Introducing buses would mean that less number of people can go in. There are huge crowds during the weekends and I’m not sure if the authorities will be able to handle them with just four buses.”
Parel resident Richa Patil, 21, said, “It is a good, eco-friendly idea but the bus service should be reliable and not inconvenient for the large number of visitors.”
The city’s environmental activists warmed up to the idea. “It’s a welcome move, one that should should have been implemented long ago. The plan will help maintain the ecological sanctity of the forests,” said Stalin D, a project director with NGO Vanashakti.