It shocks animal lovers like us that, when the world over people are realising the futility and cruelty in keeping animals captive and demanding the closure of Zoos, the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan also known as Byculla Zoo in Mumbai has gone ahead with the plan to import Humboldt Penguins, Otters and set up an aquarium that requires a mindboggling 2.4 million litres!! The animals don’t belong from tropical climate like ours, and the effort being taken to create similar environment for them is nothing but shocking.
Maharashtra is a state prone to drought, and has been constantly struggling with water woes. Against an average recommended supply of 135 litres per consumer per day (lpcd), the BMC supplies only 90 lpcd, rural consumers receive 25 lpcd water. Last year 3,228 farmers have committed suicide in Maharashtra the highest in 20 years, taking the total number of farmers taking their own lives since 1995 above the 60,000 mark, the highest in any state of India. Even today, despite good monsoon the city is experiencing 20 to 40 per cent water cuts. The Byculla Ward, where the proposed facility is located has been experiencing 30 per cent water cuts for the last 4 months, and experiences severe flooding during the shortest spells of rains. And in a state like this, the government wants to set up new facilities for animals hugely dependent on water and power?
This year, the government banned use of swimming pools, stopped water supply to malls. The Bombay High Court had asked BCCI to shift IPL matches out of Maharashtra – all because of sever water scarcity. When the next crisis hits, water will have to be judiciously distributed among people.
Extensive air-conditioning is required for the upkeep of penguins and I suspect that it will be in excess of 30 tonnes atleast. And the power situation in the state is no better. Despite the government and private power producers arranging an additional supply of 700MW of power, the shortage in peak season in Maharashtra is expected to increase by 25% from the current figure of 4,400-4,500MW to 5,400- 5,500MW. Which means, against the state’s power requirement, areas could selectively be without power for over 15 hours a day! At the proposed facility, I have personally clicked pictures of air-conditioning of a high order being installed in the zoo. Since Maharashtra is witnessing power shortage and relying on states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Jharkhand why has the government given a nod for this project? And when power cuts become the norm, will the government’s priorities be penguins and fishes or farmers and voters? Do visit the Byculla zoo premises and see the state of enclosures, facilities and the infrastructure being set up exclusively for the penguins, and the situation there is nothing but dismal.
(This is the first part of the article and the remaining portion will continue tomorrow)
Anand Siva / S. Krishna kumar
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)