Uddhav, Aaditya Thackeray take steps to protect Aarey

Maharashtra CM Uddhav, Aaditya Thackeray take steps to protect Aarey

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Aaditya Thackeray. Credit: PTI Photo

In what would go a long way in maintaining and increasing green cover, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government has decided to declare a part of Aarey Milk Colony in Mumbai as a reserve forest.

This green patch is located adjacent to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), which is often referred to as the green lung of Mumbai.

The move comes days after the Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray directed government departments to look for an alternative to Mumbai metro carshed Line-3 from Aarey to either Pahadi-Goregaon or Kanjurmarg.

Ahead of the 2019 Vidhan Sabha polls, the then BJP-Shiv Sena government led by then chief minister and now leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis axed around 2,500 trees in the Aarey Milk Colony for the metro carshed.

Thackeray, who was then part of the BJP-led alliance and his son Aaditya came down heavily on the government – and once he took over as the chief minister, one of the decisions that he took was to scrap the project.

“600 acres of Aarey land near Sanjay Gandhi National Park will be reserved as forests. This will be the first instance of any extensive forest blossoming within the limits anywhere in the world,” Thackeray said.

The decision was taken after Thackeray presided over a meeting in which Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, Forest Minister Sanjay Rathod, Dairy Development Minister Sunil Kedar, Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray were present.

Thackeray junior said that the state government has decided to constitute the land as a reserve forest under Section 4 of the Indian Forest Act.

“Approximately 600 acres of open land is being declared as forest while all rights of Adivasi communities will stand protected. Rehabilitation of slums within the area would be expedited. This would be phase one, for which the Forest Department will move a proposal,” he said.

Officials said that the area to be excluded from the forest will be ascertained after seeking suggestions and objections from citizens. Besides this, construction of all types, roads, slums, adivasi pockets and government facilities will be excluded from the first phase of the initiative, they said.

The Aarey Milk Colony has a total area of 3,160 acres of land, owned by the Dairy Development Department of the Maharashtra government, out of which area available for cultivation of quality fodder and grasses is about 400 acres. The government has also leased out the land to various organisations and institutions of the Maharashtra government and the Centre. The colony houses 30 stables having a capacity of housing 500 to 550 animals in each stable.

This area has grass and scrub environment with a few hillocks, possessing two perennial and one seasonal pond as well as many seasonal streams. The vast pastures of the Marutian Para grass are maintained and harvested as fodder for cattle. The highly varied habitat consisting scrub forest, seasonal freshwater marshes, hillocks, rocky outcrops, grass interrupted by human settlements is host to a variety of life forms, thus making this area a biodiversity hotspot in Mumbai. Leopards too have been spotted in Aarey several times.