Mumbai needs all the breathing space it can get

In what is an important order to protect the rich biodiversity of Aarey Milk Colony, which acts as a buffer zone for Sanjay Gandhi National Park, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) stated in a recent order that the BMC shall not issue any further NOC for construction within the entire Eco-Sensitive Area (ESA) in Aarey Colony and if any such illegal activity is noticed, immediate action shall be taken, including demolition thereof, without any delay. This paper reported the development yesterday, and it is an order that has green warriors, Save Aarey activists and all those who fight for open spaces, cheering hard and loud.

The NGT declared this while hearing a plea filed by NGO Vanashakti and others, seeking the declaration of Aarey Colony as a No Development Zone (NDZ). The order also states that the Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) has not granted any permission for tree felling or construction activity within the area.

This is a huge victory for activists, and the people of Mumbai in general, who want to conserve open spaces. Aarey has been in the news recently, with the proposal of constructing a Metro car shed on a part of the land. It took a hard fight, and huge sacrifices in time and effort by citizens to make authorities reconsider that proposal. While that was a concerted, sustained effort, one hopes that citizens do not have to fight this hard to conserve all open spaces in the city.

While there are certain NGOs and activists that do wield clout, the ordinary person finds it tough to eke out the time to pursue such causes because they take a great deal of energy, effort and self-motivation.

Let the authorities find a happy balance between what they call development and preservation. While every little open place in this city of cement and skyscrapers is worth preserving, it is certainly not practical to keep fighting or keep campaigning.

Let authorities make a sincere effort to keep these green lungs free for the citizens.

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