Aarey Milk Colony: Protests vs change of land use
Objections pile up against proposal to change No Development Zone to Residential Zone to accommodate Metro Bhavan
Citizens seem to be in complete war mode with the government over Aarey Milk Colony. After the Metro car shed, it's the Metro Rail Bhavan. A notification that seeks change in land use for the bhavan inside Aarey has received around 21,000 objections in the last three days alone.
The notification released by the state government on August 6 sought to change the land use for a 2.05-hectare plot inside Aarey from a No Development Zone to Residential Zone, to make way for the Rail Bhavan. All the Metro lines across the city will be managed from this building.
The space earmarked for the Metro Rail Bhavan currently has a thick green cover
The city has two days left (up to September 5) to put forth their suggestions/objections to the notification that enables this change in land use. While some objections were registered in the past one month, the recent approval to hacking more than 2,000 trees inside Aarey has given impetus to the objections. Activists and citizens have claimed that the government is gradually opening up more spaces inside Aarey Colony to be usurped in the name of development.
The recent notification regarding the Metro Bhavan has led to a mass movement with citizens sending emails to authorities objecting to the proposal. Let India Breathe, a website through which visitors can send in objections, has so far sent about 23,600 objections in total asking the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and the state government to cancel the change in land use. The No Development Zone, according to activists, has been erroneously called so in the Development Plan. It is instead a green zone and should remain untouched, they insisted. While officials claimed that it is a land parcel of hardly 2.03 hectares, activists claimed that there was no need to enter Aarey at all.
The citizens' objections will now be scrutinised by the Director of Town Planning and the objections and suggestions that are deemed fit will then be heard by the town planning department of the state. If considered positively, certain changes are expected but activists also pointed out that the 82,000 objections to the Aarey tree cutting proposal were not considered by the authorities. Yash Marwah, an activist and member of Let India Breathe, said, "A draft mail of the objections is ready on the website that could be sent by anyone from their personal e-mail ids.
We started the campaign on our website a week ago but the three days saw the most response as 21,000 people came forward to object to the change in land use after the Aarey tree cutting proposal was approved. The citizens want to save as much of Aarey now as possible and we want the authorities to hear us." Environmentalist Zoru Bhathena said, "It will not be out of place to state that MMRDA has many hectares of vacant land all over Mumbai which can easily be used to build a Metro Bhavan. There is no need to destroy a natural area for such purposes when there is an abundance of vacant land available. The MMRCL (Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation) is already destroying Aarey, and now the MMRDA wants to do the same."
Citizens have been protesting to save the city's green cover by objecting to the Metro car shed in Aarey Milk Colony. File pics
A letter written by Bhathena to the Deputy Director of Town Planning also states that no land-use change can be proposed in the Green Zone by Government of Maharashtra without prior permission of MoEF. The plot also falls under the Eco-Sensitive Zone of SGNP according to a MoEF notification dated December 5, 2016, it further states.
Very small land: MMRDA
An MMRDA official, not willing to be named, said, "We are hardly taking some 2.03 hectares and as our plan is yet to be prepared, the change in land use is our first move. We cannot ascertain if any trees will be affected in this process." A part of the 2.05 hectare land - 5,000 sqm/0.5 hectares - is also being reserved for a Christian cemetery, according to the notification released the Urban Development Department of the state government. The space earmarked for the Metro Bhavan currently has a thick green cover.
Size of the land proposed for the Metro Bhavan
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