Aarey is forest land, says NGO

Mumbai: A document from the Maharashtra Forest Department and its Sanjay Gandhi National Park Division, procured by NGO Vanashakti through the Right To Information Act, reveals that a land area of 2076.073 hectares from the Aarey Milk Scheme was transferred to the park at the time of its expansion in 1969.

The document, an official communication dated July 22, 1980, sent from the office of the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra Limited (FDCM), Nagpur, to the Regional Manager, FDCM, Thane, reveals that that out of 2076.073 hectares that was transferred, 575 hectares were to be extracted for creation of a recreational zone within the park, with the remaining as part of the park. Another communication, dated October 10, 1980, from the Thane regional office of the FDCM to the Managing Director of FDCM, states, “Considering the fact that the recreation sector [575 hectares] is burdened with number of rights and privileges, it will be better that if the whole area is declared as protected forests under Indian Forests Act, 1927.”

Vanashakti submitted these details in an affidavit filed in the West Bench of the National Green Tribunal on February 17, as part of its petition that seeks the declaration of the Aarey Colony as a forest, to protect it from being exploited through construction and commercial activities. According to Stalin Dayanand, director of Vanashakti, it is unclear what happened to this 575 hectares of land.

K.D. Thakare, the Deputy Conservator of Forests, (territorial) Thane, said that Aarey cannot be called as forest as there are a number of dairies and hospitals there. “If it was a virgin land, with just forest and nothing else, then it was different. But it is not so in this case.” He said that declaring the land as forest will hamper construction work there. He also said the area had been declared as eco-sensitive three to four months ago, which restricts construction and mining activities there.

Dinesh Singh, Assistant Conservator of Forest, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, said he could not comment on the issue as he has not yet seen the affidavit. However, an official from the department said that Aarey has neither been identified nor notified as a forest.

The State government has proposed that the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited construct a double-deck car shed for the Mumbai Metro Line 3 on 33 hectares of land inside Aarey. There are also plans to construct a labour camp and a casting yard at the proposed site. To make way for this construction, 2430 trees will be cut down in Aarey Colony (part of a total of 5,012 trees to be cut down in the entire city).

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2022 8:30:38 pm |