Save Aarey: Goregaon residents fight to preserve their green haven

As a metro car shed threatens large chunks of land, Goregaon residents speak out on what the space means to them

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) plans to use 74 acres of land in the Aarey area, for a car shed for the Metro-III project. This will entail felling of more than 2,000 trees. Raising their voices against this threat to nature and the biodiversity in the area, a number of green brigadiers are campaigning to ‘Save Aarey’.

School children come forward to save the flora and fauna in Aarey Milk Colony. Pics/Shadab Khan
School children come forward to save the flora and fauna in Aarey Milk Colony. Pics/Shadab Khan

As development and the need to preserve nature is at odds, Goregaon residents consider the Aarey Milk Colony area as their green haven. For 24-year-old Bimbisar Nagar resident Swati Patil, Aarey is her backyard.

The portion marked out for the Metro Phase III shed at Aarey Milk Colony. Pic/Sameer Markande
The portion marked out for the Metro Phase III shed at Aarey Milk Colony. Pic/Sameer Markande

Memories
The security professional says, “I played a lot there as a child growing up. I learnt to cycle there and went for long walks with my parents and friends. My favourite hangout places there are Chhota Kashmir and Picnic Spot. My parents go for walks daily to the Chhota Kashmir gardens. Every Sunday our family heads for a picnic, where we go out boating.”

A woman hugs a tree as she participates in a Chipko protest to save Aarey
A woman hugs a tree as she participates in a Chipko protest to save Aarey

Patil doesn’t like that after dark many places in Aarey lack sufficient lighting. She says, “Often we have had to leave before sundown to avoid being stuck in the dark at Aarey. The area is really a stress-free world with green trees and a peaceful ambience. If the lighting conditions are improved, Aarey would be a much better place.”

The Aarey well is another favourite spot during the hot summers. Pic/Nimesh Dave
The Aarey well is another favourite spot during the hot summers. Pic/Nimesh Dave

Aarey holds many childhood memories for gym owner Adil Patel. The MG Road, Goregaon West resident says, “I learnt to ride a motorbike and drive a car in the Aarey area. Many of my friends live at Royal Palms in the Aarey precinct. On weekends when I have some free time I visit the New Zealand Hostel area and the Imperial Palace space in Aarey.”

Sanjay Gandhi National Park Borivali (SGNP) rescue team on a night patrol at Aarey Milk colony in Goregaon. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Sanjay Gandhi National Park Borivali (SGNP) rescue team on a night patrol at Aarey Milk colony in Goregaon. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

The Body Artist Fitness Training Centre lead trainer says, “When I get fed up of the hustle and bustle of city life, I take my bike and ride to get lost in the wilderness of Aarey. The Metro Phase III car shed is a cause of huge concern. I love nature and want the trees to be as they are.”

Divya Ramesh and Deepak Gopalakrishnan (r)
Divya Ramesh and Deepak Gopalakrishnan (r)

Nature
Jaden Mascarenhas 11, who lives on the Aarey Road, says, “A few days ago some volunteers campaigning to ‘Save Aarey’ came to my school. They told us about the wildlife and the greenery in the space. I have a friend who lives in Aarey Milk Colony and I love spending time at his house. The trees there are really beautiful, I love reading a book under them.”

Sanjay Singh Jaden Mascarenhas
Sanjay Singh and Jaden Mascarenhas

The standard VI student says one evening he and his friend spotted a leopard at Aarey. He adds, “There is a tree there called the Ghost Tree under which we saw the leopard about three months ago. It was a great moment to see a wild cat so close. There are many squirrels, rabbits and birds which are really beautiful to spot.”

Kshitij Wagh Adil Patel
Kshitij Wagh and Adil Patel

For Samiksha Seth who lives near Goregaon station, Aarey makes her feel like she is away from Mumbai. She says, “Summer vacations for me were always trips back and forth to Aarey. I love the forests and the greenery. What I enjoy most about the space is the fact that the temperature there always seems much cooler than the rest of the city.”

Anjali Acharya Samiksha Seth Swati Patil
Anjali Acharya, Samiksha Seth, Swati Patil

This doctor who is interning at a city hospital says, “My maid lives in Aarey so I hear many leopard stories from her. I love the greenery of this space and feel the trees help to maintain the global cycle. During the monsoon trekking to New Zealand hostel is my favourite weekend activity. The trees smell of the fresh rain and nature comes alive with frogs croaking and beautiful insects all around.”

Recreation
Anand Ganjal associates Aarey Milk Colony with cricket matches that he plays with friends on weekends and holidays. The banker says, “Aarey is one place that looks beautiful in summer, winter or the rains. I love taking long walks around the OP Lake area.

The New Zealand hostel area is famed for cricket matches that will give the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand a run for its money. Playing with nature all around makes you more enthusiastic.” Animation industry professional Anjali Acharya says, Aarey makes her feel as though she is in some exotic destination where she often finds herself on work assignments.

The Aarey Road resident says, “As a child, I often hung out near OP Gardens and my parents would point it out in films and television serials which made me really happy. I love going boating at Aarey as it gives me a good cardio-workout and I also get to chat with my friends sharing secrets while boating.

I also love clicking pictures; Aarey gives me a great opportunity to sharpen my photography skill.” Acharya adds, “In school, I learnt about dairy, bread industry, nature, etc more closely because of Aarey Milk Colony. It is a very educative space that has really helped me grow as a person as well as student.

I became more than just a book worm thanks to this beautiful space that is near my house.” Gokuldham resident Sanjay Singh says, “I go to Aarey, at least three to four times in a month. The space is well and truly the lungs of the city. When I go to this area I feel like I am in a foreign country as the space is very unlike Mumbai.

The beautiful trees and flowers, butterflies and birds all around make me come alive.” The videographer continues, “I love clicking pictures in the lap of nature. Aarey is the perfect stress-buster place for me after some very gruelling assignments at work.

I just switch off my mobile phone and spend a full day clicking pictures and taking in the look and feel of being one with nature. After that day, I come back refreshed and ready to take on some more work stress.”

Bliss
Deepak Gopalakrishnan and his wife Divya Ramesh are regulars at Aarey Milk Colony for workouts. Gopalakrishnan says, “Aarey is a gorgeous green piece of land, where the temperature drops by a few degrees as you enter it. It is an anomaly in the concrete jungle. I’ve stayed close to it for two years and have fallen in love with nature and the area.”

The husband-wife duo goes cycling, for runs and walks to Aarey. Ramesh says, “We love discovering new trails. I like the incline near Aarey Guest House just near the gate and can spend hours there. We also love the fact that it's green, cool and there are lots of dogs. As dog lovers we always spend time with them — petting, playing and feeding them.”

The flipside of the great things at Aarey are the bad roads according to Gopalkrishnan. He says, “The Aarey roads are pretty pathetic, but they are great for offroading, which is very different from highway cycling. Same goes for running. My cycle has been punctured on a number of occasions and we have also suffered a number of injuries while running.

The traffic also is too much, so early mornings are the best time for cycling or for a run.” Singer Kshitij Wagh says, “I use the Aarey Road that leads to Mulund often. I just stop for sometime, park and sit under a tree and meditate or sing a song. Nature is my perfect muse. There is no place in the area that I dislike. I actually love finding new spots to hang around at.”

The Film City area resident says, “The New Zealand hostel area is a nice place to trek in. The feeling of being surrounded by greenery is a great one. For me, early mornings are the best time to step out for a light jog and some vocal chord training with nature all around me.” Aarey means different things to different people here, but it is evident that this treasure is relished and cherished.

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