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A mangrove still exists!
At Pirojshanagar, Godrej have preserved a large expanse of swamp, one of the very few such areas in the city under original mangrove forest. It is almost unbelievable that, like the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivili, such a mangrove still exists in the excessively congested and polluted metropolis that Mumbai is, serving in a manner of speaking as the city’s lungs.
This mangrove has been preserved by the Soonabai Pirojsha Godrej Foundation, which is the owner of this tract covering 1,800 acres, east of Vikhroli. Never was nature worship, common to all the world’s religions, more needed to be observed than today when the earth, the oceans, the air we breathe, the water we drink and other elements are increasingly being desecrated by human, industrial and atmospheric pollution. Such worship would create the awareness in all of us as, to give but one example, mangrove destruction leads generally to loss of food, breeding grounds and shelter for numerous life forms.
Since awareness about mangroves is extremely poor among city residents, creating such awareness is the need of the hour. Special Mangrove Awareness Programmes are being designed, which will include nature trails, slide shows, talks, exhibitions, etc., targeted for different groups. Brochures have been designed to convey information about mangroves and about the activities of the Vikhroli Centre. These brochures and/or letters are sent to different schools/colleges/NGOs/organisations which are interested in research on mangroves. Two watchtowers are being maintained for safety of the area and for field observation. Further, a mangrove museum is being built to provide knowledge about mangroves. Slide shows are a powerful aid for this education. The idea is for the project to establish itself as a pioneer body working for the restoration of mangroves along with related activities.
As is the Godrej practice, an Environmental Cell was established in 1985 for the mangrove project. Three eminent scientists and Trustees of the Soonabai Pirojsha Godrej Foundation were appointed — the late Dr. Salim Ali, the late Dr. A.K. Ganguli and Dr. H.N. Sethna. Noted dignitaries have admired this project. Mauri Rautkari, Secretary-General, WWF — Finland, had this to say: "Vikhroli mangroves in Mumbai can offer such original habitat and ecosystem within the city itself, which hardly any other city in the world can boast of."
A gift to Mumbai
Vivek Kulkarni, the manager of the Garden Department and Mangrove Project, in a question-and-answer session with Rashna Ardesher stated that as far as expenses are concerned, "money is the last criterion for such works. Way back in the early eighties when the late Sohrab Godrej and the late Naval Godrej decided to reserve this land for mangrove conservation, I don’t think they thought much about financial liabilities. It was the attitude to safeguard our environment, the attitude to conserve nature and to give a gift back to Mumbai city, which had given so much to this Company. Conservation value of any monument cannot be determined by its material cost but by the dedication of the people who are running it and the ecological value of that monument."
Asked about the birds, animal and plant species in the area, Kulkarni said: "Structurally, Vikhroli mangroves and the adjoining area of the Thane Creek are biologically very rich. It is truly a miracle to have 205 species of birds, 15 species of mangrove plants, 33 species of reptiles, 7 species of prawns, 15 species of crabs, 22 species of fish, numerous other organisms, including mammals like mongoose, jackals and jungle cats, all within the municipal limits of a megapolis like Mumbai.
"The area is undoubtedly a bird paradise, especially in the winters. It is estimated that over a million birds fly this way during their winter migration, many of them roosting here for a long time. At low tide, I have seen entire mudflats covered with birds and you just cannot see an inch of land through these gigantic flocks. I remember the glowing face of Soonuben when she had come to see the flamingos gathered in our mangroves.
"Some spectacular birds of the area are the white bellied sea eagle, greater spotted eagle, imperial eagle, lesser spotted eagle, harriers, flamingos, avocets … The list is long."
Who says dreams cannot be realised? This industrial garden township was. It has been referred to variously as a tourist attraction, the pride of Maharashtra and an Eden of Contentment. On 12 December, 1972 at the mammoth condolence meeting for his late father, the Company’s Chairman, the late Sohrab Godrej, announced that this township would henceforth be known as Pirojshanagar. Many visitors who came to Pirojshanagar from India and abroad viewed it with pride and joy and a sense of wonderment. The Visitor’s Book at Pirojshanagar is aglow with the compliments showered on it. A perusal of their comments makes for rewarding reading. A French journalist admits to finding very few enterprises so favourably disposed in his own country. A Planning Advisor to the United Nations declares that if more industrialists were as progressive and forward-looking, it would be much to the country’s good. A Malaysian MP refers to it as one of the finest factories he has seen, especially in regard to the welfare, education and housing of the workers. A roving ambassador for the Ghana Government refers to the facilities provided for workers to be the prime objective of management, a rare thing elsewhere. An Economic Advisor to the Ministry of Finance calls it a most impressive example of enlightened capitalism. And a Secretary from one of the city’s best known hospitals calls it an Industrial Wonderland …