Mumbai: Although the civic body has spent a whopping Rs 10 crore on the highly criticised penguin project at Byculla zoo, the zoo authorities are yet to pay their water taxes.
According to the defaulters’ list of civic body’s hydraulic department, the zoo owes Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation over Rs 4 lakh in unpaid water bills.
Free Press Journal was the first to report on March 27 that the BMC has unpaid water bills of Rs 1,500 crore. Out of the two lakh defaulters across the city comprising of several developers, government organisations and private companies, Veer Mata Jijamata Udyan which is also known as the Byculla zoo is one of the major defaulters.
The civic body had procured eight Humboldt penguins at the cost of Rs 2 crore. After setting up special enclosures and procuring imported acrylic glass, the cost of the project has gone up to Rs 10 crore. Civic officials said that the penguin project does not only involve procuring the exotic birds alone but also making the entire arrangement and a team of doctors deployed at the zoo.
A senior civic official said, “We had to build special enclosures in order to maintain a suitable temperature for the penguins. Also, we have doctors and other staff that are continuously working to make sure that the penguins are healthy. Also, a huge cafeteria has been constructed inside the penguin section for visitors.”
Ashwin Chandran, a Ghatkopar resident who recently visited the zoo, said, “It is clear that the civic body has unnecessarily spent crores for an irrelevant project. Mumbaikars never demanded to see penguins. In a bid to show off their abilities of housing penguins in Mumbai, the civic body has wasted taxpayers’ money. Moreover, it cannot even pay up their water dues.”
The ruling party in the civic body, Shiv Sena, continues to receive criticism for the plan as it was the party’s pet project. The BMC had invited flak after one of the penguins named dory died due to a brief illness.