The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) located in the heart of Mumbai city, is arguably the only urban wilderness which is surrounded a population of about 20 million people. Consisting of about 104 sq. km. of pure wilderness is a treasure trove of biodiversity and more interestingly it forms about 20 per cent of Mumbai’s metropolitan area. Located within the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot SGNP is home to 274 species of birds, 35 species of mammals, 78 species of reptiles and amphibians, 150 species of butterflies and staggering 1300+ species of plants. By the day the list of animals and plants found in SGNP is increasing as more explorations are happening here. These forests support one of the densest population of wild leopards Panthera pardus and as per the recent surveys the 104 sq. km. forest is sustaining at least 21 wild leopards today. But the significance of this natural ecosystem is not only limited to its biodiversity, but SGNP is an ecological lifeline of the city Mumbai, popular as India’s financial capital. And right from India’s pre-independence times, the reason for protecting the area of what we today know as SGNP has been it’s potential as a watershed for ensuring and securing Mumbai’s drinking water supply. As of today Mumbai’s drinking water supply is totally based on natural water catchments all of which are situated within three protected wildlife areas viz. Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary and Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary. SGNP harbours three fresh water lakes of which two are used to supply drinking water to Mumbai’s humongous population. Also this forest area is the source for life sustaining ecological services like: uptake and sequestration of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere therefore acting as the cities green lungs; check soil erosion; provide essential climate regulatory services to the citizens of Mumbai and also played a major role in controlling the aftermath of a deadly cloud burst over Mumbai on 26th July 2005, which was first mitigated by SGNP and yet managed to result into a casualty of more than 800 people in a matter of hours. It is an undisputed fact today, that without the flood containing service of SNGP’s forests, this casualty figure could have been much worse than what actually resulted.
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