Strays at Navi Mumbai airport site still await warm hearts

Spare a thought:  Animal lovers say the daily expenditure for buying chicken meat, milk and biscuits is estimated at ₹4,000.

Spare a thought: Animal lovers say the daily expenditure for buying chicken meat, milk and biscuits is estimated at ₹4,000.

Over 350 dogs and cats, who have been abandoned after villagers moved out of the construction site of the Navi Mumbai airport project, are yet to get a roof over their heads. Repeated appeals by a group of animal rights activists to the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) to construct a shelter for the strays have not brought any visible results on the ground.

“In the last three months we have been looking after these animals, the CIDCO has not offered a single drop of water, but assurances. We approached Prashant Thakur, CIDCO chairman, in March, and were promised a shelter before March 31, but nothing happened,” Pooja Teli, one of the animal lovers, said.

The volunteers claimed their request letter for a shelter has now been caught in the jurisdictional battle of various departments within the CIDCO.

Varsha Pillai, another volunteer, said, “When we again approached Mr. Thakur in April, he asked us to come to the CIDCO office again. Subsequently, an official in the health department told us that a plot in Asudgaon, Panvel, could be used for housing the strays.”

But when the activists went to Asudgaon to check out the area, they found that there were already several cows in the plot. “To keep the dogs and cats, the area first needs to be cleared of the cattle, which will be cruel. Who would cook for the strays? Who would maintain the area that has no fencing?” she asked.

When they raised these issues with the health official, he allegedly told the volunteers that based on some people’s request, the cows have been kept there. “He said there was no official sanction for keeping the cows and an order would soon be issued for removing them to make space for the strays,” Ms. Teli said.

A few days later, when they checked with the official for updates, he told them that the order for removing the cattle had not been issued, and the matter is now under the estate department.

An official in the health department of CIDCO said, “We will first vacate the land in Asudgaon. Then we will issue expressions of interest for running the shelter. But this will be temporary. Once we find an alternative place, we will build a permanent shelter there for these strays.”

An official in the CIDCO’s real estate department said, “The activists have approached us. We are in the process of giving the plot in Asudgaon for the animal shelter.”

Though some animal welfare organisations are taking care of around 50 puppies rescued from the airport site till an adoption camp planned by the volunteers takes place on May 26, finding a solution for the adults is the real challenge. With the monsoon approaching, the activists are fearing the worst.

Aditi Parameshwaran, another member of the group, said, “The animals are going to suffer during rain. The CIDCO should at least arrange temporary shades for them till it provides a permanent shelter.”

Meanwhile, the animal lovers are struggling for funds to meet the strays’ daily expenses. “The daily expenditure for buying chicken meat, milk and biscuits is estimated at ₹4,000. We expect another 100 strays to be added as the demolition and clearing of debris at the project site progresses,” Ms. Parameshwaran said.

She said they are a group of activists belonging to middle class families. “None of us can afford ₹4,000 a day for the feeding drive so I started raising funds. Raising funds in a personal account is extremely difficult as people question the credibility of our work, but we have no choice. The funds are drying up and we are worried that we won’t be able to feed the animals beyond 15 days.”

Mr. Thakur told The Hindu that the plot identified in Asudgaon in Panvel will have all required facilities for housing the strays. “The CIDCO has the capacity to make the area suitable for the animals, and workers will be employed to cook for them and maintain the area. This will be done as per due process.”

Anand Siva, another animal activist, said the airport is coming up at the expense of massive destruction of the environment. “Dogs and cats are dying without shade, water and food in an area they once thrived. The authorities concerned have a moral obligation to ensure the welfare of these strays,” he said.

With the help of Bhumi Jeevdaya, an NGO, the activists are organising an adoption camp for the rescued puppies on May 26, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. at S.S. High School, Seawoods, Nerul. For enquiries, contact Aditi Parameshwaran on 8652114494.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2022 2:17:30 am |