Mumbai’s trash flows from urban jungle to national park

There’s a good reason to keep humans out of forests: Trash!

Some people stood here to enjoy the scenery, and left behind evidence of ample enjoyment

At birdsofbombay, Sunjoy Monga posted about a cleanup drive in Sanjay Gandhi National Park. A tireless team comprising schoolchildren and other volunteers recovered a large amount of trash from the national park, which is a virtual ghetto inside the city. 

And guess what most of the trash consisted of?

Booze bottles – some half-full, others half-empty. Empty foil packets of wafers and gutkha – that awful-smelling stuff that some people sprinkle into their mouths from an elevation of half a foot.

Now, this is must be a truly amazing way to celebrate Wildlife Week, no? 

When the Forest Department wakes up from its stupor, maybe it will give us some sober answers.

I’ve seen this happen in every national park that I have visited – Bandipur, Mudumalai, Nagarahole, Bhadra, Periyar. For most of us urban chameleons, national parks offer a perfect hideaway from the city. But what some people do when they go there is unpardonable. 

Most national parks have effete, unconvincing signboards emblazoned with some weak cliche about saving our forests. Few of them offer the real reasons why you should not travel with stuff that tends to become trash. And if you do, why you should take your trash home. Most forest department workers are not educated about this aspect in the first place, so enforcement is not even on the horizon. 

Was it illiteracy or plain insensitivity that led people to litter below a signboard entreating them not to do so?

I once travelled on a safari in Bandipur with a bunch of engineering college students. One of them was playing music on a Walkman so loud that all of us could hear the screech of the playback singer’s sibilants and the thump of jhankaar beats. I’m sure the animals heard him, too, a mile away. And, helped ably by the rattle and trundle of the diesel van that took us on the safari, we saw nothing but jungle fowl and the backside of an elephant. 

At Muthodi, my friends and I came across a group of surly drunks at the Shegekan Guest House. We hoped to stay here in order to have convenient access to the sholas. The Forest Department put us up at the dormitory downhill, denying us permission to stay at the guest house because someone connected to a minister had booked the place. Driving up, we heard the tinkle of bottles even before the guest house came into view. 

And, even as we stood watching Crimson-backed Sunbirds in that horrible garden planted with many exotics including a Christmas Tree, a couple of unsavoury characters argued loudly on the balcony, their beers and rums having gotten the better of them.

We grumbled to the caretaker but got nothing except a helpless smile. And steel tumblers of coffee, at our expense. I stepped close to him unwittingly, and – sniff, sniff – my nose discovered the reason for his nonchalance.

Booze makes quick friends. And if you have a quarter bottle to spare, rules melt like an ice cube in a glass of neat double malt.



  • Beej

    Founder-editor of The Green Ogre, Beej began this blog as a solo writing project in 2006. A communications professional, he has worked as a corporate storyteller, journalist, travel writer, cartoonist and photo-blogger. He was formerly the founder-editor of Yahoo India's travel site.

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