Mumbai Metro III: Activists spot black kites at site in Aarey Colony

Black kites, which are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, were photographed on trees within the Metro III site in Aarey Colony, despite MMRC’s claim that there is no wildlife there

The environmental dispute between the Metro authorities and green activists over the Metro line III project gained impetus after citizens spotted a protected species of kites on trees at the car depot site in Aarey Milk Colony.

This, despite the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation’s (MMRC) claim that there is no wildlife at the spot. More than ever, the kite sighting seems to have convinced activists that the MMRC was lying about wildlife in Aarey to get Rs 4,700 crore from Japan to fund the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro corridor.

Andheri resident Sudam Navle spotted black kites perched on trees at the Metro car depot site in Aarey Colony. Black kites are listed under the Wildlife Protection Act
Andheri resident Sudam Navle spotted black kites perched on trees at the Metro car depot site in Aarey Colony. Black kites are listed under the Wildlife Protection Act

Last week, this paper had revealed that in an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report sent to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which may partly fund the Metro III project, MMRC stated that there was “no wildlife” at the proposed car depot site in Aarey (‘Did MMRC lie to get Rs 5,000 cr from Japan for Metro?’, mid-day, February 12).

However, local residents pointed out that they had seen leopards nearby several times. Even after the story was published, MMRC stood by its claim. In the sections without trees, the Metro authority has already started levelling the 30-hectare plot near Picnic Point and will begin shifting utility lines soon.

On Sunday morning, Andheri resident Sudam Navle took part in a silent protest march against the project, and found glaring evidence that the MMRC was wrong he spotted a few black kites perched on trees right inside the car depot plot. He instantly photographed the birds for evidence.

“MMRC should understand that wildlife doesn’t mean only leopards but other species like black kites, pythons, etc., which are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act. If the claims made by MMRC were true then I should not have been able to spot a group of black kites perched on the tree at the car depot site,” Navle said, adding, that many other birds who have built nests on trees there will lose their homes as well, if the project goes on and the trees are cut.

Local residents and environmentalists said that the grassland is also home to the Indian rock python and Russell’s viper, which are protected under Schedules I and II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. A researcher who did not wish to be named said, “It’s not just black kites, but a python was also rescued from the car depot site more than a year ago.

The Indian rock python had gone on the road towards Marol from Picnic Point.” This was confirmed by Kaushal Dubey, a member of the NGO SARRP who said that he had rescued a 3.5-foot Russell’s viper from the same area about a year ago.`

Expert speak
“City planners suffer the misconception that city trees, such as the ones they are so eager to hack down in Aarey, do not constitute life-saving assets/infrastructures. They also suffer from short-term ambition and memory, or they would remember the Mithi disaster.

In an era of climate change they are hopelessly ill-equipped to take life or death decisions on our behalf,” said Bittu Sahgal, editor of Sanctuary magazine.

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