Leaders of the opposition parties in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) slammed it for floating a Rs 15.26 crore tender for the upkeep of the penguin enclosure in Veer Mata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan (Byculla Zoo).
The civic body had procured eight humboldt penguins (three males and five females) in July, 2016, from Seoul at a cost of Rs 2.5 crore. In September, 2018, it had appointed a contractor to maintain and upkeep the penguin enclosure for a tenure of three years. This contract will end in September.
Opposition leaders have questioned the BMC's decision to spend so much money on the enclosure. Ravi Raja, senior Congress corporator and leader of opposition (LoP), said that he will oppose the proposal if it is tabled for approval at the standing committee. "The penguins have been here for more than five years now. The civic body should have built an in-house facility," said Raja. "It needs to rethink about spending so much money on the enclosure. More money should be spent on rebuilding its health infrastructure," he added.
The BJP shot a letter to the BMC 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.
According to a senior official of the Byculla Zoo, the Rs 15.25 tender will cover all the expenses related to the penguins, including the veterinary charges, fodder cost, airconditioning and ventilation system, exhibit maintenance and quarantine area. The three-year tender is likely to have an annual cost of Rs 5 crore. Delay in the renewal of the contract may pose risk to the lives of these penguins due to non-maintenance.
The official said that the rate of the new tender has been increased only by 10 per cent.
"These penguins play a key role in revenue generation. More than 90 per cent of the visitors visit the zoo to see these penguins. The exhibit represents the natural habitat of the penguins, which is expensive to maintain. This is the first and only zoo in India that houses penguins," said the official.
The BMC faced immense criticism after a newly born humboldt penguin died within seven days after its birth on August 22, 2018. The zoo administration maintained that the penguin had died due to birth anomalies.
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