Villagers look forward to Bhandup mangrove centre

Fisherman Nandu Pawar (40) is ecstatic at the prospect of having a nature park in what he calls his "native land' Bhandup. "We are locals of Bhandup village and fishing here has been our age-old occupation. However, of late, a lot of us have been finding jobs elsewhere because fishing is not lucrative anymore. The mangrove park will mean new opportunities in our own land. We can think of a plethora of respectable jobs here as guides, boat riders, guards, etc,' he explains. Nearly 10,000 villagers of Bhandup echo Pawar's feelings. "We'd rather work in the place that we have inhabited for years than find jobs elsewhere,' they say. "Besides, we know how living in the mangrove area saved us during the June 26, 2006, floods. We will be proud to see this land develop as a tourism zone.' The state government's forest department will soon sign a formal agreement with NGO Conservation Action Trust (CAT) to develop the 452-hectare wetland between Bhandup and Kanjurmarg as a Mangrove Wetland Centre (MWC), the first of its kind in India. Still a proposal, CAT plans to submit a master plan of the park