Mumbai: Who has fenced off 33-acre parcel in Aarey Milk Colony?
While locals in the eco-sensitive area don't even get permission to repair their crumbling homes, developer raises concrete fences in the No-Development Zone in Aarey Milk Colony
The authorities seem to be on the fence about following the rules when it comes to Aarey Colony. They won't allow tribal residents and dairy owners to repair their crumbling homes and barns because of a ban on construction work in the eco-sensitive zone. But for some reason, it doesn't seem to bother them when a private developer allegedly puts up fences around a 33-acre plot.
Sources from the Aarey CEO's office said the 33.6-acre plot in the Pahadi Goregaon area had been handed over to a private developer in 2006. The plot had been earmarked for the resettlement and rehabilitation of 6,720 hutments found in Aarey in a survey before 1995. However, the project never took shape once Aarey was declared an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) and no-development zone (NDZ).
However, a few days ago, a nature lover was shocked to see fences being erected on a huge patch of grassland. "A few days ago, I was on my evening walk when I saw fences being erected around the plot. What surprised was how the barrier was being installed when the plot falls under the NDZ. When I tried to click pictures of the ongoing work, some people stopped me. Somehow, I managed to get a few pictures," said the whistleblower.
Locals are outraged by this development. They alleged that the Aarey CEO's office does not even allow them to repair their homes because of the NDZ. "There are many cattle farm structures and tribal houses that have become weak over the years. At some places, the structures are so dilapidated that they could collapse. But every time we approach the CEO's office to take permission for repairs, they turn us away. But the rules seem to be different for some, as the same CEO's office has turned a blind eye to the fencing work that has taken placehere over the past week," said a local resident.
According to wildlife enthusiasts and locals, the plot is located in a crucial habitat for many wild animals and birds. There have been frequent sightings of jungle cats and leopards in the vicinity, as well as various species of birds in the grassland.
Aarey CEO says
Nathu Rathod, CEO, Aarey Milk Colony, said, "The plot where the fence is said to have been erected was handed over to the developer in 2006, and the property card also mentions this. All of Aarey Milk Colony is an NDZ and part of Sanjay Gandhi National Park's ESZ. If the developer wants to do any construction, he will have to take all the required permissions."
However, he claimed he was unaware of the developer's identity. The official further claimed that the developer was merely repairing an already existing barrier. "I will have to look into this, but as per what our officials have told me, the developer is renovating the boundary surrounding his plot, which had got damaged."
Environmentalist Stalin D, who is also an active member of the Aarey Conservation Group, said, "Even if the plot was given to a developer in 2006, no construction activity - this includes erecting a fence around the plot - can be done. Before carrying out any work, it will have to be discussed before the ECZ monitoring committee."
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