Not all activists are satisfied with Aarey Colony being marked an Eco Sensitive Zone, and will now write to the government demanding that no construction be allowed there
While many green warriors considered it a victory when the forested Aarey Colony was recognised as an Eco Sensitive Area (ESA) in the draft notification released on Saturday by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF), not all environmentalists are satisfied, as they think the green pocket is still threatened by loopholes that can be exploited by the construction lobby.
This picture by wildlife photographer Prabhu Swami shows a leopard basking in the Aarey greens. Activists have been demanding that the green pocket be protected from ecological damage by prohibiting all construction work there
“The proposed draft is clearly lacking intent; it is contradictory and tailor-made for the construction lobby. We will expose all the mistakes in this draft very soon,” said environmentalist Stalin D, from the NGO Vanashakti.
However, biologist Dr Vidya Athreya, from the Wildlife Conservation Society, welcomed the move. “It shows the government is serious about issues related to the health and well being of Mumbaikars, and is interested in saving green spaces,” she said.
The draft comprises a map of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and, interestingly, Aarey is marked as part of the ESA or buffer zone surrounding the park. The draft also states that there shall be no felling of trees on the forest or government or revenue or private lands without prior permission from the relevant authority.
However, activists have pointed out that the draft does not prohibit infra projects at Aarey, and they are now demanding that the area be granted full protection from any development projects.
“We request the government to keep all of Aarey as a natural open space and restrict any eco-damaging infra projects when there are credible alternatives. Aarey should be granted protected status. Permanent solutions should be implemented for garbage, river stream cleaning, open space development, biodiversity conservation, etc.” said Manish Gadia, a wildlife photographer and active member of the Save Aarey Group.
The MoEF’s notification also recommends that the authorities prepare a Zonal Master Plan to chart out the future plan for Aarey Colony.
The master plan will not impose any restriction on the existing approved land use, but will instead focus on the restoration of denuded areas, conservation of existing water bodies, management of catchment areas, watershed and groundwater management, and soil and moisture conservation.
“For the master plan, citizen group representatives should be part of the initiative, and it should be inclusive in nature,” added Gadia.
Say your bit
The draft is currently open to objections or suggestions from citizens and anyone who wishes to contribute can write to the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org