Aarey has become a political tangle: Raveena Tandon

It’s unfortunate that in spite of all the protests that the environmentalists and activists have had, the MMRCL (Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation) has decided to go ahead and cut the trees, said Tandon. Photo/PTI

In the wake of Bombay High Court dismissing all petitions against the proposed axing of over 2,500 trees in Mumbai's Aarey Colony and officials cutting down around 1,500 trees on Saturday, actress Raveena Tandon talked to Deccan Herald about how great a loss it would be for the citizens and the wildlife, and how it’s all turning into a political tangle. Here is what Tandon had to say:

"It’s unfortunate that in spite of all the protests that the environmentalists and activists have had, the MMRCL (Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation) has decided to go ahead and cut the trees. Trolls on social media are targeting the environmentalists and anyone who is speaking for Aarey assuming that we are all against the Metro. 

“Metro is a great development and boon, but what we wish is that it goes hand in hand with the environment. Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Aarey are the only two green patches or bits of forest that we have left in the city. That is what provides us with a lot of oxygen and that’s why Mumbai has so far not gone the Delhi way. Luckily, since we are on the coast, the winds help us and that too provides us with oxygen cover.

"Unfortunately, bit by bit, Film City came into this part of the forest and it has also encroached into Sanjay Gandhi National Park, besides the slum encroachments and resort encroachments. In fact, Sanjay Gandhi Park has been fighting a case against the Film City on the encroachment and they want their land back. 

"We have different kinds of diverse wildlife in Aarey and because Aarey is connected to Sanjay Gandhi National Park, there is definitely a spillover of wildlife into Aarey. Aarey, on paper, might have been declared a non-forest land and the government can do what they want, but they have to realise that it is a thriving forest with leopards moving into Aarey with cubs, deer, sambar and other animal species. And we are not even talking about the insect and the birdlife there.

"The fear is that like Film City and resorts that have come up in and around the area and even if only a small bit of land is going for the metro shed, bit by bit the entire land is going to get developed. It seems like the beginning of the end. 

"A lot of panels and even the one that the government had asked to survey the plots had come up with many alternate sites. That has been ignored. Yes, they will cost more, yes, they are on prime land but Mumbaikars wanted it themselves. Why are they not being taken into consideration?  It is the parking lot that people are protesting against and it can be built anywhere. 

"But this has now become an ego issue with politicians jumping into it. It looks like a political tangle. The loss, however, is for the wildlife lovers, environmentalists and citizens. My wish is even if the metro shed is built, it just stops there. And everything around it is declared ESZ (Eco-Sensitive Zone). And whatever is remaining of Aarey is attached to Sanjay Gandhi National Park and made into a corridor for wildlife."

(As told to Anupama Ramakrishnan)

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