Mumbai’s Taraporewala Aquarium is India’s oldest. It opened in March after two years of renovation and redesign. But experts and regular visitors say it’s a big damp squib.
When the Fisheries Department of the Maharashtra government closed the Taraporewala aquarium in 2013 for a complete overhaul, you couldn’t be faulted for expecting Mumbai and India to get a world class aquarium. But two years on, the aquarium that opened in March 2015 is far from any international standards.
Although Rs. 22 crores have been spent on it, everything smacks of a lack of vision and any real concern for either the marine exhibits or the human visitors. Reports of over a hundred fish dying in less than a month after reopening are rife. Officials working on the fish tank displays were tight-lipped about the poor maintenance and kept us away from the Quarantine Room where the different species are treated for acclimatisation. An official, who did not wish to be named, said “It’s unfortunate that several fish died in the past weeks but, sea horses are back on display. The main problem is to take care of the marine section as the water is sourced from the Arabian Sea and the pollution level is quite high, which is resulting in the death of these marine creatures.”
Ecologists reiterate that the main reason behind the casualties of many varieties of fish is the use of ‘filtered’ water directly sourced from the Arabian Sea, water that is both highly saline and polluted. Bibhas Amonkar, an environmentalist, says “This is a classic example of wasting public money and also lacks basic research in terms of classification of the different species of marine life. The way the sea turtles have been put into such small fiberglass water tanks is a pity.”
Fisheries Commissioner M. B. Gaikwad and Joint Commissioner Rajendra Jadhav were unavailable for interviews despite repeated requests.