While a controversy has erupted over high-cost maintenance of a penguin enclosure at Byculla Zoo in Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has issued a clarification over the allegations levelled by representatives of some political parties regarding loss of crores of rupees.
BMC commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal on Wednesday clarified the facts of the income of the Byculla Zoo also called as Veermata Jijabai Udyan. The commissioner said that before the arrival of penguins the cumulative income of the zoo was between April 2014 and March 2017 was Rs. 2.10 crore.
On the contrary after the arrival of the penguins in March 2017, the total cumulative income of the Zoo between April 2017 and March 2020 was Rs. 14.36 crore.
Therefore it is clear that the income of the zoo increased by Rs. 12.26 crore. The total value of the tender for expenditure on penguins was Rs. 11.46 crores.
"It is amply clear that increase in the income of the zoo after arrival of penguins is much more than the expenditure on maintenance of penguins in the zoo, therefore in light of the above facts it is incorrect to state that MCGM is suffering huge losses due to the arrival of penguins in the zoo." Chahal explained.
The current contract, which will end this month, was awarded at a cost of Rs 11.5 crore in September 2018. According to zoo authorities, a five to ten per cent increase in costs has been registered due to a rise in prices for necessities such as food.
Reacting to the BMC's tender floated for the enclosure, the BJP shot a letter to the civic body administration, stating that the amount specified in the tender is inflated. "The earlier contract was awarded at a cost of Rs 10 crore. The amount has increased by 50 per cent when the administration is cribbing about a financial crunch. They need to justify the price gap kept by them," said Prabhakar Shinde, senior BJP corporator and group leader in the BMC.
BMC corporator and the Opposition leader in the municipal body Ravi Raja of the Congress said, “This kind of high maintenance cost is not justified. The BMC is spending more on this than on hospitals. It must review the cost of penguin maintenance. In five years, the BMC should have built in-house maintenance capacity.”
For the unversed, the seven penguins at Byculla Zoo were procured from Coex Aquarium in Seoul, South Korea. Their enclosure is spread over 1,800 square feet and consists of a water pool, accommodation area, air handling units and a cooling system.
The penguin enclosure is a pet project of Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray. In 2016, eight penguins — three males and five females — were brought to the Byculla Zoo. However, one of them has died since.