Save Aarey: Activists gather proof of wildlife at Mumbai Metro III site
The environmental dispute over the proposed Metro car shed in Aarey Colony rages on between activists and the Metro authorities, which had claimed in an official report that there was “no wildlife” at the site.
While MMRC’s report stated that leopards merely ‘strayed’ near the Metro yard site in Aarey, experts such as ecologist Rajesh Sanap had spotted this leopard about 1-2 km from the Metro site in Aarey Colony, proving that the area is a common haunt for the big cat
To contest this claim and prove that wildlife does indeed exist and thrive there, activists are now gathering data and photographic evidence of species – some rare, others more common - that have been spotted in the vicinity. mid-day presents a few pictures of wildlife at Aarey that have been taken by citizens and experts, and which will now be used to file a public interest litigation against the Metro project.
mid-day’s report on February 12
The Metro ‘lie’
It may be recalled that last month, activists from the Save Aarey Milk Colony group revealed that the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) had sent an Environment Assessment Report (EIA) for Metro III to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which was to fund the project.
The report, prepared by the Rail India Technical and Economic Services (RITES), categorically stated that there was no wildlife at the yard site in Aarey Colony. Section 3.7 (ecology) of the report further states, “The project site is located in city area and no wildlife is envisaged,” while section 3.7.2 reads, “Mumbai is now so populous and overcrowded that it is no more a congenial home for wild animals...At present there is no forest in the true sense except the national park at Borivli, extending over an area of about 19.18 sq km. Hence, wild life as such is almost extinct from Mumbai.”
Experts, through this paper, had pointed out that the ‘no wildlife’ claim was extremely misleading, as leopards, pythons and other animals had been spotted in the vicinity. Activists wrote to JICA, which is known to be pro-environment, and their complaint was accepted by the agency (‘Did MMRC lie to get R5,000 cr loan from Japan for Metro?’, mid-day, February 12).
Intent on proving that MMRC’s claims are incorrect, environmentalists and nature lovers are now flooding the authorities with pictures and videos of wildlife at the car depot site and around. Ecologists Rajesh Sanap and Zeeshan Mirza - who had conducted an award-winning biodiversity study in Aarey Colony revealing that it was home to several species – have also joined forces with the campaign and have sent in pictures of wildlife spotted by them as well.
The duo, and other activists and nature lovers, are compiling all the photographs and data so it can be used as evidence in the PIL that is to be filed against the Metro authorities by activists such as AAP member Mona Ambegaonkar.
“It is shocking to read in the EIA report that there is no wildlife at the site of the car depot. Aarey Milk Colony is very rich in its biodiversity and that is the reason Zeeshan Mirza and I were able to discover new species of spiders and tarantulas, as well as rediscover some that were thought to be lost to science.”