Tribal leaders in Aarey warn that the upcoming zoo falls smack in the middle of an area frequented by leopards and are concerned about the disturbance it may cause
On Sunday, close to 500 tribal residents with members of Save Aarey and Aarey Conservation Group protested against the proposed zoo. Pic/Sameer Markande
While the Forest Department has signed an MoU with BMC for setting up a zoo in Aarey Milk Colony, the road ahead seems to be difficult, with the tribal residents of the area opposing the project. Tribals staying close to the plot for the proposed zoo told mid-day that the area is frequented by leopards and any construction activity will only block the path of leopards and other wild animals.
The state government on June 3 signed the MoU with BMC for setting up the international zoo in Aarey on a 120-acre plot at a cost of R500 crore. However, locals and activists are unhappy with the idea. The land where the zoo is coming up is close to Gavdevipada and Khambyachapada, which according to locals, is frequented by leopards.
Tribals residing in Aarey Milk Colony came out in protest against the proposed zoo on Sunday
Speaking to mid-day, tribal leader Prakash Bhoir said, "The forest cover in the area is already decreasing. The plot marked for the proposed zoo is a part of the habitat of leopards and other wild animals. Members of our community who do paddy cultivation on the proposed plot have seen leopards and other animals there since the time of our ancestors. All of us are opposed to the project because it has been planned without taking us into confidence."
To display their opposition, close to 500 members from the tribal community, along with members of the Save Aarey and Aarey Conservation Group on Sunday took part in a protest at picnic point in Aarey Milk Colony. Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam was also a part of it. He later tweeted, "Saving #Aarey is above everything else. The lungs of Mumbai cannot be allowed to be killed."
A tribal who participated in the demonstration said, "World over, countries are protecting forests, but our government is behind destroying Aarey Milk Colony. I feel the main agenda of the government is to displace tribals from Aarey and sell the land as it has high real estate value." The tribals claim the zoo will also take away the livelihoods of several families.
"Our tribal members from six hamlets have been farming on close to 70 acres of the 120-acre plot proposed for the zoo. The land was finalised without consulting these families. Our opposition to the zoo or any new project in Aarey will continue and we will also be writing to the Chief Minister, tribal minister and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, " said a member of the Adhivasi Hakka Samvardhan Samiti.
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