Sanjay Gandhi National Park: Mumbai's urban wilderness reopens its gate for tourists
BL Soni

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) reopened for tourists from Tuesday morning after it was closed since March 18 in the wake of the Covid-19 induced lockdown. However, private vehicles will not be allowed inside the park.

As soon as the city's only urban wilderness reopened its gates for tourists on Tuesday, it witnessed a footfall of over 300 visitors. Tourists will be able to visit the park between 8.30 am and 6.30 pm, daily, except holidays.While the reopening of the park has come as a relief to many who will get access to the city's green patch once again, popular tourists spots in the park such as Kanheri Caves, Vanrani- a toy train, Lion and Tiger safari, boating, etc will remain closed for now. According to officials, these tourist attractions will be made operational later after monitoring the situation for some time.

“Those without masks will not be allowed to enter. Any person having symptoms associated with Covid-19 is requested to avoid entering the park and if they do, their details will be shared with the nearest Covid-19 centre,” said G Mallikarjuna - director and conservator of forest, SGNP.
He added: “At the end of the day, it is up to citizens/visitors to take care of their health. We are only facilitating a safe environment during this pandemic.”

Since Kanheri caves will not be accessible for tourists, for now, tourists will be allowed to only go up to the Tumnipada gate.

The Park reopened for morning walkers from October 15. Following which Morning walkers were able to visit the park between 5.30 am and 7.30 am, daily. After closely monitoring the activities, the park decided to reopen for tourists.

"Even though we are allowing entry to tourists, lowering the facemasks and violation of social distancing will not be tolerated," added Mallikarjuna
As planned entry of private vehicles has been prohibited into the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) as it reopened for tourists after the lockdown. Paid Parking facilities have been made available for visitors/tourists in a newly developed parking area which has capacity for around 300 vehicles. Besides BEST buses have been made available for the visitors to travel within the park.

Before the lockdown, private vehicles heading towards Kanheri caves caused traffic snarls inside the national park, especially on weekends. On average, the park sees 100 private vehicles daily. According to official estimates, SGNP receives more than 12 lakh visitors every year and earns around Rs 50-70 lakh in entry charges annually.

The park authorities are planning to get sixteen battery-operated buses which will instead ferry people inside the park, especially to the Kanheri caves. "Specification of the buses have been submitted, the process of procuring the buses has begun," said Mallikarjuna.

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