Why was the Save Rani Bagh movement initiated?
Two baobabs standing as sentinels on either side
of the triple triumphal arch entrance
The Save Rani Bagh Botanical Garden Foundation, a registered public charitable trust was formed in October 2012
by the members of the erstwhile Save Rani Bagh Botanical Garden Committee, a group of nature enthusiasts who had
banded themselves into an informal Committee in April 2007 in order to protect the heritage botanical garden of
V.J.B. Udyan, popularly called Rani Bagh, from the forces of so-called redevelopment.After five years of sustained
activity, the Committee undertook to formally register itself as a Trust with the express aim to consolidate the
struggle to protect the heritage botanical garden, to generate greater public awareness about its many features
and to strive to promote it in myriad ways.
The story begins in April 2007 when the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai announced a grandiose plan to
install a zoo to international standards in Rani Bagh at a whopping cost Rs. 433 crore! The astronomical price
tag and gushing media reports clearly indicated that construction activity was envisaged on an enormous scale
- this on a 53 acre campus, home to 3,213 trees, where there was virtually no treeless space available for any
kind of construction. Fearing that the proposed international zoo would obliterate the 150 year old heritage
botanical garden and gravely endanger its 3,213 trees and diverse flora and make the entry fee prohibitively
expensive thereby denying entry to common citizens, we undertook to roundly oppose the proposal at all levels
using every democratic avenue open to common citizens.
Protecting Rani Bagh
Over a seven year period we have gathered, analysed and cross verified voluminous data under the Right to
Information Act from all official bodies, and used it to buttress our stand that the botanical garden was
at grave risk from the BMC's ill-conceived and dangerous proposal. We have vociferously represented before
bodies such as the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), the central Ministry of Environment and
Forests (MoEF), the State Government and the Central Zoo Authority (CZA). Our hands were strengthened by
public and media support as also the backing of a range of environmental and public space groups.
A protracted struggle, in the course of which we also knocked on the doors of the Mumbai High Court under
writ jurisdiction and attended several official hearings before the MHCC, resulted in the vexed BMC proposal
being rejected by the MHCC in March 2011. We are presently (in 2014) protesting against a modified BMC proposal
which is before the MHCC for consideration, where we have once more represented our case at an official hearing.
Clearly, the struggle to protect the botanical garden is an ongoing one and forms a large chunk of our work.
For details go to the link "Our Struggle"
Promoting Rani Bagh - some activities
A green and glorious avenue beckons as you enter
We have attempted to work closely with the Rani Bagh Authorities and have furnished information and lent
assistance to name and number 1,000 trees in the campus. We are also in the process of designing large display
boards furnishing information on some of the majestic trees in the park and hope that the authorities will install
these soon. Unfortunately, sustained efforts to convince the Municipality to conduct a host of suggested events to
celebrate 150 years of the botanical garden have not fructified. However, it is a matter of the greatest satisfaction
to us that we have been able to celebrate 150 years of Rani Bagh by jointly publishing in 2012 a large format
richly-illustrated book titled Rani Bagh 150 Years showcasing the botanical, historical and cultural aspects of this
premier public space. This was followed by a Marathi translation in 2013 titled Ranibaag 150 Varshe. For details go
to the the link Rani Bagh 150 Years on the Home Page
Together with our struggle-oriented tasks we have constantly striven to raise public awareness about the botanical
garden through publication of brochures and pamphlets, participation in seminars and public events and through
educational activities such as nature trails and audio-visual programmes conducted for groups of students and lay
people. Our special focus has been on Municipal school children. A botanical garden field guide and nature trail
information booklets are on the anvil.
Chief objects of the Foundation:
- To protect the entire area and Renaissance layout Rani Bagh's botanical garden and ensure that public
access remains affordable.
- To publish field guides, train volunteers and conduct educational/ awareness-raising events to inspire
citizens, particularly the youth, to take greater interest in Rani Bagh's natural and built heritage.
- To enhance the value of botanical garden and its floral diversity by assisting the Municipal Corporation
in laying out specialized gardens preparing educational material, conducting workshops etc.
- To stress the need for open spaces and gardens in the city and harness all democratic methods to
prevent felling of trees and encroachment of open public spaces and to promote the preservation of existing
gardens, particularly botanical gardens.
Dr. Sheila Tanna