AAREY FOREST – Development or Deforestation?
The green lungs of Mumbai- AAREY FOREST
Aarey forest is standing on the edge of being slaughtered again in the name of development. Home to more than 5 lakhs trees, several species of birds, insects and animals, was once part of the adjoining Sanjay Gandhi National Park. A large forest land of over 3,000 acres in north Mumbai is now reduced to around 1,300 acres. It is among the few green patches left in the city responsible of purifying and detoxicating the atmosphere. The forest was under threat when construction undertaken by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) of Mumbai Metro 3 in Aarey Colony commenced for building a car shed.
History Of The Aarey Forest –
This isn’t the first time when thousands of trees in Aarey Colony are butchered for development. Chipko Movement, a forest protection movement was also initiated in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand in 1970s against deforestation. Aarey Forest used to be an agricultural land, and a part of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The rules were amended and it was converted into non-agricultural land. Soon bits and pieces began to be eaten away and this magnificent piece of nature in the city started shrinking. Around 3160 acres of land was handed over to Aarey Milk Colony in the name of White Revolution and was declared a No-Development Zone. The Aarey Milk Colony constitutes a milk factory, pastures for cattle grazing and residential units for laborers in its premises. Again in 1977, 490 acres of the land was again massacred for the construction of Film City. The no development zone altered in 2014, when the State government converted it into a Development Zone.
Protest for the Forest –
The Aarey Forest protests began on October 5, 2019 after the Bombay High Court allowed the Mumbai Metro to cut nearly 2,500 trees to build a car shed for the Mumbai Metro 3. The government seems to be determined in providing a part of this eco-friendly zone to MMRCL for the construction of the car shed, while NGOs, environmentalists and citizens’ groups are fighting to stop the cutting of trees. The government says it will take only 3% of the land for the car shed, but according to ecologists and environmental groups, a lot of it has already been excavated. Online petitions such as #AareyChipko #SaveAarey are also seen orbiting the entire social media.
Reason For Protest? –
Protests against the construction of a car shed for the Mumbai Metro have been taking place at the colony for two years. The Save Aarey Movement has sought data from the State government over years about an expert committee report. The committee report was sanctioned by the Chief Minister’s office, which reportedly concluded that the Aarey Forest is “The Fifth Highest In Terms Of Ecological Importance”, still why the report is being disregarded.
What is also worrying environmentalists like Anand Pendharkar is the “Issue Of Tribals Who Stay In Aarey Forest” and their rehabilitation. While several Bollywood stars have also shown concerns, actors Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar have come out in support of the Government, backing the metro project.
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The top court was hearing the case after a group of students wrote to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi regarding the petition against the cutting of trees in the Aarey Forest. A special bench of the Supreme Court has been set up. The bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan was set after a delegation of students led by, Rishav Ranjan,4th-year Noida-based law student sent a letter to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, on seeking his intervention in the matter.
The Bombay High Court rejected petitions challenging the Mumbai’s Tree Committee order approving the cutting of trees. Two pleas against the metro car shed project are currently pending in the Supreme Court including an appeal by environmental activists, challenging Bombay HC’s judgment of last year in which Aarey was declared “not a forest”.
Technology is the biggest enemy of nature –
As development and technology is building nations and cities, it all together is eating the planet up. With more technology, the rise of development is pacing and on the other hand global warming is a major concern too. So how can two such contradictory occurrences coexist?
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