In Mumbai, a city of teeming millions, isolated pockets of wilderness struggle relentlessly to purify the air, moderate the climate, protect watersheds and provide much-needed recreational space to the city weary. Adjoining Mumbai’s famous leopard-bearing Sanjay Gandhi National Park is the Aarey Milk Colony – a little-known forest of immense worth, and one that is today in danger of being mutilated under the guise of development.
About the Campaign:
Aarey sprawls across 3,000 acres of land between Andheri and Goregaon, and the diversity of its forests has been well documented by Sanctuary Wildlife Service Award 2014 recipients Zeeshan Mirza and Rajesh Sanap. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, however, seems to be ignorant of the invaluable ecological services that Aarey renders and is considering two projects that involve large-scale felling of trees in approximately one third of the Colony. These include:
1. The widening of the Aarey road by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and converting it into the Goregaon-Mulund Link Road. This will involve the felling of over 1,000 trees.
2. The construction of a zoo and metro yard by the MCGM and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). This will involve the felling of over 2,500 trees.
3. The MCGM has also come up with a proposed development plan with the intent to set up an economic growth hub in Aarey.
In the light of this pending destruction, concerned citizens and organisations have banded together to form the ‘Save Aarey Community’ and are demanding that this vital oasis of greenery be conserved for posterity. Among the short-term demands of this citizen’s group are the following:
1. The immediate suspension of any work that involves the destruction of the Aarey Milk Colony.l The declaration of the Aarey Milk Colony as the protected ‘Buffer Zone’ of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
2. The checking of encroachment into Aarey, and the preparation of a proper plan to address this problem by the BMC and MCGM.
3. Undertake a detailed tree survey and geo-tag trees in Aarey. Expectedly, MCGM does not even have any details of the number of trees in Aarey.
4. Only forestry activity/eco tourism activities to be conductedinside Aarey.
5. Aarey to be declared as an ecologically sensitive zone under the Environment Protection Act.
In November, on the basis of a PIL filed by Vanashakti, the Mumbai High Court ordered that all necessary permissions must be obtained before the trees are cut for any of the above mentioned projects. It’s now time to ensure that no such permissions are given for the destruction of this forest and to help the citizens of Mumbai ‘Save Aarey’.
Photo Courtesy: Save Aarey Milk Colony (Official Group).
The members of the Save Aarey Community have staged protests, held community gatherings, ceaselessly petitioned, interacted with the authorities and even enacted street plays. Sign a petition requesting the Maharashtra government to act on suggestions to protect the biodiversity of the SGNP-Aarey Corridor. Lend your support to the cause by writing letters of protest against these ‘development’ projects to the Chief Minister, Maharashtra. Do make the following points:
1. The Aarey Milk Colony is an invaluable green lung of Mumbai. It hosts incredible biodiversity, including 76 species of birds, 86 species of butterflies, 38 species of reptiles and numerous mammals such as leopards, civets and barking deer.
2. The Save Aarey Community has provided alternative options for the proposed metro yard.
3. The Aarey Milk Colony should be declared a ‘Buffer Zone’ to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and be preserved for future generations.
Address your letters to:
Shri Devendra Fadnavis
Chief Minister, Maharashtra,
Mantralaya, Mumbai – 400032.
Send copies to
Shri Sitaram Kunte
Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai,
Municipal Head Office, Mahapalika Marg,
Mumbai – 400 001.
Shri Urvinder Pal Singh Madan
IAS, Metropolitan Commissioner,
M.M.R.D.A. Office building, Bandra-Kurla Complex,
C-14 & 15, E-Block, Bandra (East),
Mumbai – 400 051.
Tel.: +91-22-2659 0001/4000