Aarey zoo hangs in limbo

Following NGT’s order last month, the Forest Department's proposal for a zoo in Aarey is likely to face hurdles

While the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order that came last month states that no permission or NOC should be given for any kind of construction at Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon, the fate of a proposal to set up an international zoo on a 200-acre plot hangs in limbo. Activists and researchers believe there is little need for a zoo to come up at the plot near Maroshi Pada since it is part of a wildlife corridor that sits between Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and Aarey.

Aarey zoo
Representational Pic

Speaking to Sunday mid-day, wildlife researcher Rajesh Sanap said, “The location where the forest department plans to set up the zoo is an area which wild animals, including leopards, use. Any kind of development here might destroy the crucial corridor. Rather than setting up a zoo, the authorities should concentrate on revamping the zoo that already exists and is in bad shape at Byculla.”

NGT is hearing a plea filed by NGO Vanashakti and a few others to declare Aarey Colony a No Development Zone (NDZ). An order passed by NGT on August 19 stated that assistant conservator of forest, Sanjay Laske, has filed an affidavit stating that the Aarey Colony area is shown as an Eco-Sensitive Areas (ESA) and that the Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) has not granted any permission for tree felling or construction activity within the area.

No such activity will be allowed henceforth, until the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) takes a decision, save the existing constructions of apartments or illegal buildings.

The order also states, “The BMC, the director of Aarey Colony and CCF shall give notices to the project proponents of the construction work and keep status till further orders are passed in this application.”

The Save Aarey Milk Colony community, in a letter sent to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, had expressed their displeasure over the zoo plan. “It does not make sense to destroy a natural area. Developing photo trails and walks that we have proposed are better alternatives to allow everyone to enjoy the natural biodiver-sity of Aarey,” said Manish Gadia, Save Aarey Milk Colony member.

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