Mumbai: Located along the banks of the Mithi River, the Maharashtra Nature Park, popularly known as Mahim Nature Park (MNP), is spread across 37 acres. A biodiveristy hotspot, the park is home to 158 species of birds, 85 types of butterflies, 32 varieties of reptiles and 30 types of spiders.

But the park, which is surrounded amid prying eyes of the developer authority, was once a dumping ground. The journey of the park is as spellbinding as nature itself.

The dumping ground was shut in 1977. In the same year, World Wildlife Federation (WWF) India submitted the proposal to create the park to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority.

The first tree was planted in 1983 by late ornithologist and naturalist Salim Ali, and then began the process of converting the dumping ground into a park. It was not a pleasant task, scraping through harmful garbage, and spreading soil over it before planting trees.

“An extensive clean-up drive was conducted to clear the Mithi river and the Mahim creek, along whose banks the dumping yard was located. Then, close to 1,50,000 mangrove saplings were planted on the periphery of the park along the creek,” said Avinash Kubal, deputy director, MNP, adding, “After years of tireless efforts, the park was opened for school children in 1992. In 1994, the Maharashtra Nature Park Society took over the work and began allowing common public to visit the park.”

Since the trash in the landfill makes it difficult for trees to access groundwater, the management has to keep planting new trees to replace dead or fallen ones. To help them along, the authorities fill water in irrigation pits close to the trees in winter. Their roots, sensing sustenance nearby, reach out steadily towards the water over the next few months, right in time for Mumbai’s scorching summers.

“And the result was, in about three decades, the space was turned into a mini forest that rose from the squalor of Dharavi, the largest slum of Asia which lies on the periphery of the park,” Kubal says.

Additionally, a section of the park has been earmarked for medicinal plants and horticulture. To irrigate the vast vegetation in the park, a rooftop rainwater harvesting system has been built, which stores around 2,000 kilo litres of water every monsoon. The water collected is stored in an open pond, which is home to several aquatic plants and provides a backdrop for the park’s Rain Education Centre.

“This is a park in its truest sense. It has all the things one can have from nature — from birds to insects and trees to flowers. Moreover, if the park is surrounded by polluted places on the three sides, and if the park is still able to combat the pollution, it just goes on to show the might of nature,” Kubal said.

A brief history…

Maharashtra Nature Park is spread across 37 acres. A biodiveristy hotspot, the park is home to 158 species of birds, 85 types of butterflies, 32 varieties of reptiles and 30 types of spiders.

The dumping ground was shut in 1977. The same year, World Wildlife Federation (WWF) India submitted the proposal to create the park to the MMRDA.

The first tree was planted in 1983 by late ornithologist and naturalist Salim Ali.

The park was opened for school children in 1992.

In 1994, the Maharashtra Nature Park Society took over the work and began allowing common public to visit the park.

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