Save Aarey: Nature lovers upset over park being walled off

Five years after activists prevented the govt from destroying Panchavati gardens in Aarey Colony to build an anti-terrorism facility, nature lovers will have to fight again to prevent the construction of a wall around the park, which will shut them out forever

While the fate of the proposed Metro car depot in Aarey Colony hangs in the balance after strong opposition against the plan to axe nearly 2,300 trees for the project, nature lovers now have yet another battle on their hands.

Preparations digging out a trench and marking the area have already begun to construct the wall around the two-acre Panchavati gardens, which is home to many different species of trees and animals
Preparations digging out a trench and marking the area have already begun to construct the wall around the two-acre Panchavati gardens, which is home to many different species of trees and animals

With plans afoot to construct a counter-terrorism training centre in Aarey, morning and evening walkers in the area fear that they will no longer be able to access the popular two-acre Panchavati gardens, which will soon be walled off.

According to the members of the Save Aarey Milk Colony group, Panchavati is where most tree walks are conducted in Aarey, as it has a high level of biodiversity. “Panchavati gardens is an important location as it is also the best place for bird watching and if the compound wall is constructed, we will not be able to go there,” said P Swami, a nature lover who visits the area often.

In fact, in 2009, when the state government announced that it would develop the Urban Counter-Terrorism Training Centre (UCTTC) of Force One on a 98-acre plot in Aarey including Panchavati gardens many local tribals and environmentalists had protested.

This is how the Save AMC group was formed as well. The late activist Vinay Athalye had planted many trees in the garden and launched a silent protest against the government’s plans to destroy it. In 2010, inspired by him, banker and wildlife photographer Manish Gadia formed the Save AMC group, which eventually ensured that the garden was spared.

Now, however, a wall is being constructed around Panchavati, in preparation for the Force One facility. According to a senior official from Force One, however, they are not responsible for this. “We don’t want to comment on this all I can say is that the compound wall is being constructed by the Aarey Milk Colony CEO,” the official said.

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