Green tourism to get a boost in Mumbai! First-of-its-kind eco-friendly forest trail to come up in Malabar Hill

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Updated: June 18, 2021 12:13 PM

To understand more about the walkway and how the plan of making it eco-friendly would be realised, Financial Express Online’s Bulbul Dhawan interacted with IMK Architects Partner and Principal Architect Rahul Kadri.

The forest trail is an elevated leisure walkway, the design for which has finally been approved.

Malabar Hill Forest Trail: Sustainable tourism set to get a boost in Mumbai! Malabar Hill in Mumbai is getting a first-of-its-kind forest trail that would let people take in the serene view of nature. The forest trail is an elevated leisure walkway, the design for which has finally been approved, and it would be built by IMK Architects along with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), tourism ministry of Maharashtra and the JSW Foundation. However, along with giving a boost to tourism in the city, the walkway is also meant to be environment friendly, and would be built without intervening with the forest. To understand more about the walkway and how the plan of making it eco-friendly would be realised, Financial Express Online’s Bulbul Dhawan interacted with IMK Architects Partner and Principal Architect Rahul Kadri.

Talking about the design of the walkway, Kadri said, “The design for the Forest Trail at Malabar Hills will be constructed without damaging a single tree on site. The city has several skywalks, but there are no elevated leisure walkways. This walkway would allow people to walk through the woods, overlooking beautiful views of the sea. It is being built with a focus on protecting the environment and the natural ecosystem of the forest. With this, we are hoping that visitors will not only understand, but will also be a part of the ecosystem. Surrounded by nature and the sounds of chirping birds, the trail is meant to create a safe haven for pedestrians amidst the bustling city.”

But how would the walkway remain sturdy when the intervention on the forest floor is aimed to be kept at a minimum? Kadri explained, “The trail will be approximately 705-metres long with an average width of 1.5-metres, and will be at a minimum height of 2-metres from the forest floor. However, the height of the walkway will vary according to the slope of the ground and would be raised up to as much as 10-metres form the ground. Its elevated structure will be supported by epoxy-coated structural steel supports that have been designed with a minimal foundational footprint. The extensive soil investigation will also help determine the structural design of the foundation and structural steel supports. The walkway itself, and its railings, will be constructed in weathered wood — to merge with the forest’s natural hues.”

He also explained how the team is hoping to minimise the walkway’s impact on the environment. “We have designed a raised wooden walkway that would have a central spine of steel structural supports, keeping the impact on the forest floor to a minimum. The idea is to minimize the use of concrete on the ground surface and hence, the walkway will be an elevated one. Details including the width of the trail, its sectional design, lighting, and materials have been carefully designed to blend in with the natural habitat of the forest. The incidence of light on the forest floor will be minimized to ensure that the forest is protected against light disturbance and pollution. The design will also address important ecological and hydrological concerns — avoid blocking the flow of natural water, minimize interference with existing root systems in the soil, and prevent disturbance to the movement and habitat of wildlife,” Kadri shared.

However, the walkway will also have tourist features like a glass-bottom look-out zone and viewing decks. “The trail is interspersed with viewing decks, benches and a glass bottom look-out zone – these are zones formed at points where the walkway extends to a wider width. For example, the average 1.5-metre width of the trail would extend to 3.6-metres at points with viewing decks and 5.4-metres at the glass bottom look-out zone. The trail also includes a ticketing and washroom block that form the utility zone and are towards the start of the trail. The existing steps that are present both at entry and exit points of the trail will also be repaired. These are present at the upper slopes of Siri Road to the lower slope of Siri Road respectively. Moreover, a fence along the lower-end of the trail will also be added to prevent encroachment from neighbouring areas,” Kadri told FE Online.

What can tourists expect to see while on this walkway, though? He said, “The forest at Malabar Hill is home to a rich and diverse mix of flora and fauna. It includes a multitude of tree species including gulmohar, desi badam, copperpod, mango, coconut, rain tree, jamun and jackfruit. The forest houses over a dozen of rare birds, such as the rose-ringed parakeet, hornbill, coppersmith barbet, magpie-robin, golden oriole, peafowl and brown-headed barbet. With one side on a rocky incline and the other towards a deep valley with a view of the city, the walkway will be built amidst tall exquisite trees, creepers, bushes that will carpet its entire length.”

Tourists, however, must keep in mind that they would need to pay to use the walkway. “The entry to the walkway will be ticketed for management purposes. There will be a ticket booth at the beginning of the trail. The price for this hasn’t been fixed yet but it will be a nominal one,” Kadri said.

With the state administration and the design team being focused on ensuring that the walkway does not harm the environment in any manner, there are a few things that the tourists would also need to keep in mind. “The trail will serve as a vibrant tourist spot in the heart of the city and there are plans for it to be added as a destination on Mumbai’s tourist yatra bus. While the design for the trail has been strategically created to minimize disturbance in terms of construction and circulation, it is important that visitors also resonate with the ethos of the project, by keeping noise and other activities that may disturb the forest to a minimum,” he said.

He added, “The project seeks to set a precedent for other green tourist spots in the country by demonstrating how one can enjoy nature while causing minimum disturbance to the environment.”

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