Entrance with two grand Baobaabs sentinels
Two baobabs standing as sentinels on either side
of the triple triumphal arch entrance

Why was the Save Rani Bagh movement initiated?

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 Beginnings

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.

Japanese garden
Japanese garden
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".

A green and glorious avenue beckons as you enter
A green and glorious avenue beckons as you enter
Promoting Rani Bagh - some activities

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:

  1. To protect the entire area and Renaissance layout Rani Bagh's botanical garden and ensure that public access remains affordable.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Hutokshi Rustomfram
Shubhada Nikharge
Katie Bagli
Hutoxi Arethna
Dr. Sheila Tanna

Save Rani Bagh Botanical Garden Foundation