The conflict between the government and environmental vigilantes have plowed Aarey forest into a battleground. The beautiful, dense and the lush green Aarey forest is a place of solace amid the chaos of developing metropolitan. Aarey is a home to 77 species of birds, 86 species of butterflies, 13 species of amphibians, 46 species of reptiles and 90 species of spiders. It is also aboding 10,000 of Varli Tribal Adivasis. Two rivers flow through it. Thousands of trees serve as the green lungs to the ever-growing city. Are these not facts enough to prove that Aarey is a ‘forest’? Well, the government is struggling to identify the green cover as the forest.
In 1949, a part of the Aarey forests was converted into Aarey Milk Colony to revolutionalize the processing and marketing of dairy products in the city. It was inaugurated by the then prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Aarey embraces numerous villages, a spectacular variety of flora and fauna, nurseries, picnic spots, cycling and trekking venues which contrast with the skyscrapers and high pollution levels of sprawling urban. Aarey usually sets itself at a temperature less by 1-2 degrees than the rest of the city. Thanks to nature’s incredible mechanism of absorbing the harmful gases.
The magnanimous forest is already open to various activities and now the government wishes to open it for commercial use too. MMRCL – Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited plans to eat up the land to construct a metro gliding through the forest. It claims that Aarey is not a naturally forested area, so it does not need permission from any authorities for the construction. Moreover, the state government also nods its head in accordance to center and takes away the forest tag from the Aarey.
Perhaps, the government plans to convert the forest area into a commercial region which will increase the economic value of the land. To firm the hook of the economic anchor, the government also plans to use the land for Goregaon- Mulund link road and a 200-acre zoo. However, the broader question is: Are we ready to for a development by compromising the motherly nature?
The fight is not for the tag of ‘forest’ for Aarey; the fight is for the 3,500 trees that will be felled if the metro car shed gets constructed, it is a fight for the home of all the species that inhabit the forest. It is for the government to understand the constitutional responsibility of conserving the environment. Any threat to the forest will also be a threat to us. The suggested ratio is 6 trees/person while Mumbai is already struggling to survive with the dreadful ratio of 1 tree/4 person. This will also lead to the battle of floods getting worse.
In Bombay High Court, a petition has been filed by 2 AAP leaders: Priti Menon and Ruben Mascarenhas against MMRCL for indiscriminate felling of trees in the name of ‘development’. A public hearing is schedueld on 10th October 2018.