The Chief Minister of India’s western state of Maharashtra – Uddhav Thackeray announced the reservation of 600-acre Aarey land as forest and to conserve it. The 600 acres reserved is a fraction of the 3162 acres from the Aarey Milk Colony which is situated near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in the state’s financial capital, Mumbai. The reservation is claimed to be the first instance of forest blossoming within a metropolis region in the world, as per the Chief Minister’s tweet.
The decision was declared post a meeting of CM Thackeray with the environment minister Aaditya Thackeray, forest minister Sanjay Rathod, chief secretary Sanjay Kumar and urban development minister Eknath Shinde, according to official reports. The Maharashtra government will implement Sec 4 of the Forest Rights Act which authorizes the government to “constitute any land a reserved forest”. The 600-acre land would be proclaimed a forest after hearing the suggestions and objections from the citizens.
Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray disclosed the details in a series of tweets, “Approx 600 acres of open land being declared as forest while all rights of Adivasi communities will stand protected. Rehabilitation of slums within the area would be expedited.” This move is Phase 1 of the conservation process, a proposal for which will be moved by the forest department. A survey for additional open land in Aarey is Phase 2, which is expected to embark after the completion of Phase 1. “This would help the State protect the flora & fauna existent in SGNP and Aarey”, the tweet added.
The eco-sensitive zone is home to around 10,000 Adivasis from 27 padas/hamlets, along with 290 species of flora and fauna. With the decision, the government aims to safeguard the lives of its inhabitants. Additionally, the construction of “all types, roads, slums, Adivasi pockets, and government facilities” will be excluded.
Aarey is considered to be the “green lung of Mumbai” that has been fraying in the last seventy years under the growing pressure of the metropolitan shift. Last year in October, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) cut 2141 trees overnight to make space for a Metro car shed with the support of the local municipality and the then ruling party – Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Dozens of activists and demonstrators were detained amidst their protest, and it raised criticism from citizens nationwide.
In November, CM Thackeray’s party won over BJP, and his first order of business after swearing-in was to halt the felling of trees in Aarey. Last week, Mumbai Mirror reported, the CM convened officials to examine an alternative site for the Metro Car shed. “The CM has directed officials to re-examine the feasibility of constructing the car shed at Kanjurmarg or Pahadi in Goregaon. The existing stay on the construction of the car shed at Aarey Colony continues,” said an official. However, the controversial site doesn’t fall within this newly allocated 600-acre land.
“Finally the state government is saying that 600 acres of forest exist in Aarey. It is a step in the right direction. The government has also recognized the rights of Adivasi and tribals in the area,” said Stalin D, director of Vanashakti.
Feature Image Via Mumbai Live.