Turns out, Aarey is a forest after all
In a rich dichotomy of perceptions, even as the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) has been insisting that the Aarey colony green belt is not a forest and can thus, be chopped down for the construction of the controversial car depot for Metro line 3, a letter written in 1980 by the divisional manager of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park sought the very status for it.
In the letter to the Regional Manager of the forest department, Thane — a copy of which the activists acquired via RTI — states that 20 square km of Aarey Milk Colony land was transferred from the greater Bombay Milk Scheme to the existing SGNP in 1969 and the ‘forest’ should be notified.
On July 22, 1980, the FDCM had written a letter to the regional manager of FDCM Thane regarding the exclusion of the recreational sector of the park from notification, declaring the area as part of the park under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
The paragraph on page three of the letter in consideration reads, “During 1969, 20 sq. kms of the area which are revenue lands not notified under any section of Indian Forest Act were transferred from Greater Bombay Milk Scheme at Aarey Colony to this Division. The entire area of the proposed recreational zone comprising various sectors and the additional areas with total area of 575 hectares or 5.75 sq. kms is a revenue land and forms part of the total area transferred from Aarey Milk Colony to this Division. (sic)” The letter is signed by LP Palimkar and mid-day is also in possession of a copy of this letter.
The activists opposed to the carshed on the disputed land have now submitted the letter and an affidavit to the NGT, as it validates their standpoint. Green activist and member of Aarey Conservation Group Biju Augustine said, “We hope the government takes steps to protect the forest in Aarey."
Executive director of MMRC, R Ramanna was unavailable for comment.