“It is shocking how the wildlife at Aarey Milk Colony stands to be wiped out if a potentially harmful activity takes place in the area. We are not against development, but I request the government to discuss the issue with people and activists who have raised questions.”
Aamir Khan and Farhan Akhtar at Rangsharda Auditorium in Bandra. Pic/Shadab Khan
With these words by actor Aamir Khan, and the presence of Salman Khan, the Save Aarey Milk Colony campaign just got bigger. On Saturday, the Khans attended a talk to discuss the proposed Development Plan 2034 and the issue of the construction of a car shed for Metro 3 at Aarey Milk Colony. The programme was organised by the MNS Chief Raj Thackeray at Rangsharda auditorium in Bandra West, and was attended by Farhan Akhtar, Javed Akhtar, Salim Khan, Salman Khan, Riteish Deshmukh, Bharat Dabholkar, Mahesh Manjrekar and others.
Renowned architect PK Das gave a presentation about the proposed 2034 DP and how it will impact Mumbai. Ace wildlife photographer Nayan Khanolkar, researcher Rajesh Sanap and Zeeshan Mirza also gave presentations on why it is important to save the AMC as it acts like a buffer zone to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and the fact that there is a wildlife corridor that connects the two places.
“I don’t claim to know much about the DP as it a niche subject. But I feel a dialogue between people and the government is necessary in this matter. Come what may, the wildlife at the AMC should not be disturbed,” said Aamir.
Khanolkar decoded the Environment Impact Assessment report that the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation sent to Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). “I am not at all against development. My only worry is that it should not be at the cost of environment and wildlife. The awards that researcher Rajesh Sanap and Zeeshan Mirza got from the state government for their biodiversity report on Aarey are sufficient proof of the rich biodiversity at the AMC.”
Salim Khan added that positive change is possible only if people come forward and demand it. Architect PK Das also gave a presentation on 2034 DP and claimed it has been designed to favour the builder lobby. “The BMC plan is arbitrary, irrelevant and discriminatory. The new DP will destroy the historical, social and environmental fabric of Mumbai. What is also shocking is the fact that Juhu Chowpaty has been highlighted in green, indicating that development work can be done there,” Das said Das also pointed out that the city is short of 11 lakh affordable houses which leads to the proliferation of slums. “The 2034 DP should take care of this issue. MHADA has 2,000 hectares of land where redevelopment can be done and 5 lakh extra houses can be made available,” Das pointed out.
He also discussed how illegal land-filling was done on a 500-acre plot in Oshiwara because of which the biodiversity of the area was affected. “As per the 1991 DP, the Aarey Milk Colony and Gorai were NDZs and now the new DP states the area is good for residential and commercial zones and growth centres,” he said.
Actor Ritesh Deshmukh stressed on the need for more transparency. “The government should take people into consideration before making a final decision. I believe that Aarey Milk Colony should be protected.”
MP Javed Akhtar unabashedly spoke about the politician-builder nexus. “The builder-politician nexus has spoiled the city and there needs to be more sensible planning so that the needy get homes,” he said.