Despite govt. claims, records show Aarey is on forest land

Green and the city Aarey Colony is spread over 1,300 hectares.  

The State government’s claim that the Aarey Milk Colony, measuring 1,300 hectares, stands on land belonging to the Dairy Development Department appears to be inaccurate, as documents dating back to 1980, accessed by The Hindu, show that 2076.073 hectare of revenue land was transferred to the State Forest Department from the Bombay Milk Scheme (later renamed as Aarey Milk Scheme) in 1969. After the transfer, the land became part of the Borivali National Park (later renamed as Sanjay Gandhi National Park).

Aarey Colony, as it is popularly known to present-day Mumbaikars, is one of the city’s last few green lungs, and is the site for the controversial 30-hectare Metro 3 car shed. According to the Chief Minister’s Office, a depot will be built on 21 hectare, while four hectare will be used for approach lines and depot station while five hectare of green areas will be maintained. Activists and Aarey residents have been protesting the proposed construction as it would mean felling thousands of trees to accommodate the car shed.

In 2012, the State government brought out a document titled Management Plan of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which said ‘the revenue lands [were]transferred from Aarey Milk Colony for unclassed forests”. Here, an unclassed forest is land that has been recorded as forests, but not been notified as reserved or protected by the government. In October 1954, The Office of the Milk Commissioner, Government of Bombay published a document on the Bombay Milk Scheme which stated that it is comprised entirely of jungle land.

Environmental NGO Vanashakti has approached National Green Tribunal (NGT) contesting the State government’s claims. Despite the documents mentioned above, Sanjay Lachake, Assistant Conservator of Forests, Thane said in an affidavit filed with the NGT earlier this year that “this area is used for such non-forest activities since 1949. Therefore, the area indicated in the map appended to the said letter cannot be declared as forest.”

In a joint press conference held last week, Stalin D of Vanashakti and Congress city chief Sanjay Nirupam alleged a scam of ₹18,000 crore in the plan for the Metro car shed at Aarey. “We have been working to dig out all details for the last two years. Official documents till 2012 clearly state that the land is unclassed forest. Why is the government in denial mode? Even in their affidavit, the Forest Department has maintained ambiguity. Whose interests are being served here?” Mr. Stalin, director (Projects), Vanashakti, said.

In a clarification issued in response , the CMO reiterated that the land belongs to the Dairy Development Department.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 10:29:49 AM |

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