Mumbai: Centre takes cognisance of 'non-forest work in Aarey'

Updated: Oct 09, 2019, 07:33 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav | Mumbai

Asks Maharashtra state chief wildlife warden to take necessary action against the destruction of leopards' habitat

Trees that were axed for the Metro car shed project. Pic/Sameer Markande
Trees that were axed for the Metro car shed project. Pic/Sameer Markande

The Union environment ministry has taken cognizance of the letter a city based non-profit organisation had sent last month, urging the central government to protect the 'forest' in Aarey Milk Colony. In the letter, NGO Empower Foundation had given evidence of existence of 290 different wildlife species, including leopards, in Goregaon's green zone. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on October 3 wrote to Maharashtra's chief wildlife warden asking to take "necessary action in the matter; on the destruction of leopards' habitat and non-forest activities in Aarey forest at the earliest."

Chief Wildlife Warden Nitin Kakodkar did not respond to requests for comment. mid-day had, on September 12, carried the story — NGO: Evidence of 290 wild species inside Aarey Milk Colony — which mentioned about Empower Foundation's 26-page report listing the 290 wild species, including Rusty Spotted cat, Sambar deer and various species of birds, reptiles and butterflies, found in the region.

Empower Foundation Secretary General Sheetal Mehta told mid-day that they are "happy and encouraged to see the MOEF take cognizance" of the matter. "There are leopards in Aarey forest, in and around the Metro 3 car shed site, as also confirmed by the state government. And there is probable threat to their habitat due to construction or non-forest activities. We hope the State takes action to protect the habitat and not bring shame to India in front of IUCN and the world. Protecting our biodiversity is extremely important as Mumbai becomes the 4th most polluted megacity and especially when there are seven other options for the Metro car shed project," she said.

Meanwhile, a banner was erected in Dadar recently, accusing environmentalist Zoru Bhathena of misleading the public. The message on banner, written in Marathi, translates to, "Why stay was not demanded on cutting of 2,700 trees in high court. You mislead the people and 29 of them had to go in jail and you mislead people that trees cannot be cut for 15 days." Responding to the allegation, Bhathena said, "Fighting for a cause and not expecting brickbats and insults in return is expecting too much."

Tree supporter Archana Patel speaks to Amruta Fadnavis at Bengal Club, Shivaji Park, on Monday. Pic/Ashish Raje
Tree supporter Archana Patel speaks to Amruta Fadnavis at Bengal Club, Shivaji Park, on Monday. Pic/Ashish Raje

Nature lover confronts Amruta Fadnavis on tree felling

A NATURE-lover, who is opposed to the Aarey tree felling, confronted Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis's wife Amruta Fadnavis on Monday on the clearing of the green cover to make way for Metro car shed. Amruta Fadnavis was attending the Durga puja celebrations at Bengal Club, Shivaji Park, as the chief guest and while leaving, Archana Patel bombarded her with questions about the CM's decision to hurriedly clear the forest area over the weekend.

"I asked her what our CM thinks about what he has done at Aarey. Mrs Fadnavis told me, 'Yes, I have also been asking him about the same thing every day, and let me tell you, for the past six months we have been trying to find an alternative to Aarey'," Patel told mid-day. Patel said she "asked her why was the CM spending time finding an alternative when the citizens' group had already submitted seven well-researched options and one being Kanjurmarg?". To which Amruta Fadnavis responded, saying, "There are legal issues in regards to the Kanjurmarg land", Patel said, adding that she told the CM's wife that the legal issues were manufactured.

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