The City Forest Project under the Conservation Department of the Bombay Natural History Society is an urban biodiversity initiative to protect the forests of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWLS).
The objectives of this initiative are:
- systematic documentation of the conservation issues of the urban biodiversity
- conduct awareness campaigns among locals for the protection of flora and fauna, and
- Eco-restoration of fringe areas through people’s participation
There is a severe human-leopard conflict in and around the SGNP. BNHS therefore initiated awareness campaigns from 2005 in all areas prone to leopard attacks. The BNHS team has, so far, interacted with more than 15,000 people in these settlements. SGNP and TWLS house number of temples, ashrams, and the Kanheri Caves – an archaeological Buddhist site. These sites attract scores of visitors on various religious occasions. The huge crowds bring along problems for the Park in the form of littering, forest fires, and general nuisance. Public awareness campaigns by the BNHS team along with more than 150 volunteers, other NGOs and the forest department has succeeded in controlling incidents of forest fires and curtailing litter during these festive seasons, both at SGNP and TWLS.
A research project on the carrying capacity of Leopards in SGNP is being carried out by the BNHS under the auspices of the Maharashtra Forest Department. The Project proposes to understand the diet composition of the Leopard by scat analysis. More than 140 Leopard scats were collected from 14 dirt trail routes, including the Nagla block. Besides the immensely high biodiversity potential of the SGNP and TWLS, these magical forests also act as vital rain catchment areas, which help to recharge lakes such as the Tulsi, Vihar, and thousands of freshwater wells in the Vasai taluka. The water security of this region depends on these forests and its natural surrounds. BNHS through its City Forest initiative aims to secure the last remaining urban wilderness in our country.
Number of individuals and corporate houses are participating in eco-restoration activities around the fringe areas of SGNP. BNHS in collaboration with forest department is undertaking afforestation of fringe areas removed of encroachments.