Activists move green tribunal against state's Metro car shed plan

Wildlife enthusiasts and experts to submit before NGT photographic evidence of a thriving wildlife corridor passing through Royal Palms

Experts and nature lovers are arming themselves with photographic evidence of a thriving wildlife corridor between Aarey Milk Colony and Film City passing through Royal Palms in Goregaon East to scuttle the Metro-III car depot project in the area.

Proof of life: Aarey Milk Colony has reported many wildlife sightings. Pic/Nayan Khanolkar
Proof of life: Aarey Milk Colony has reported many wildlife sightings. Pic/Nayan Khanolkar

The photographs will be submitted before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which will take a call on whether the car shed is feasible in that zone.

The move comes in the wake of mid-day's report yesterday that the state government is mulling over taking over a private plot of Royal Palms to set up the proposed car depot, after the ministry of forests and environment declared Aarey Milk Colony an ecologically-sensitive zone recently.

Many leopard sightings have been reported from Royal Palms and experts believe that a largely unexplored wildlife corridor exists between the Film City helipad point and Aarey Milk Colony passing via Royal Palms.

Not just leopards
Wildlife enthusiast Kaushal Dubey, who has been rescuing snakes at Aarey Milk Colony and Royal Palms for NGO SARRP (Spreading Awareness on Reptiles and Rehabilitation Programme) for the last three years, says the issue isn't limited to the leopards' lair.

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mid-day's front page yesterday(Read the full story)

"That Royal Palms is abuzz with leopard activity is a known fact; there have been several sightings in that area and the adjacent tribal padas."

Dubey says he has rescued over 50 snakes like the Indian spectacled cobra, Russell's viper, saw-scaled viper, Indian rock python, rat snake, wine snake, bronze back tree snake, checkered keelback and common krait — a species protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 — from Royal Palms.

"I don't understand how the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation can even think about developing a car depot here."

He cautions that any new development in the area may spark human-animal conflicts. There is hardly any open space left in Mumbai. Instead of using the space left to developing more infrastructure, the government should keep it aside for recreational purpose," he suggests.

Biodiversity at threat

A member of the Save Aarey conservation group says construction activities will take a toll on the local biodiversity. "If the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) begins setting up its car depot at Royal Palms, it will have to extend the Metro line from the proposed depot site by more than 2 km. Several trees will then face the axe. Besides, the extension will cost the MMRC more. Rather than setting up the depot at Aarey or Royal Palms, it should look at Kanjurmarg, where there is a lot of space available. We will submit before the NGT proof of wildlife activities at Royal Palms."

MMRC says
Asked if the MMRC will go ahead with construction of the Metro car depot at Royal Palms despite the presence of wildlife in the area, Ashwini Bhide, managing director of MMRC, said, "Why don't you send me a report on wildlife sightings?" Prodded further on whether the cost of the project would go up if the depot is shifted to Royal Palms, she said, "Kindly ask the state government this question."

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