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Mumbai: Open defecation in Aarey a major issue

Updated on: 01 February,2024 01:34 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Ranjeet Jadhav |

Authorities worry that the practice could result in human-animal conflict

Mumbai: Open defecation in Aarey a major issue

The toilets in Aarey are dilapidated, forcing locals to defecate outdoors

While the argument over Mumbai’s open defecation-free status continues, the discovery of open defecation in the Aarey Milk Colony raises concerns about potential human-wildlife conflict. During a recent forest department visit, open defecation was detected, causing Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) authorities to raise their concerns with the Aarey administration and BMC. This issue is being prioritised as it has the potential to grow into human-animal conflicts, with factors such as the state of public toilets leading to reluctance to use them by cattle farm owners, staff, and pada/slum dwellers.

It may be noted that after 812 acres of a green patch in Aarey Milk Colony was declared as forest, the forest department officials have increased their presence in the area. Additional principal chief Conservator of Forest (APCCF) Dr V Clement Ben, SGNP Director G Mallikarjun, and Deputy Conservator of Forest Revati Kulkarni Patil have been regularly visiting the area. Assistant Conservator of Forest (ACF) Sudhir Sonawale who is very active on the field has also been taking part in night patrolling/foot patrolling along with Range Forest Officer Narendra Muthe and other department staff at random locations within the forest department jurisdiction in Aarey.

During one such visit, ACF Sonawale noticed open defecation on a forest patch adjacent to human settlements—a serious problem which needs to be addressed along with other important issues such as vehicles driving at high speed.

Talking to mid-day a forest official said, “Open defecation is a serious problem which needs to be addressed at the earliest as it can lead to human-wildlife conflict. We also noticed that some people staying in slums/padas/workers working in cattle farms use the forest patch to defecate in the open. We will be writing to the Aarey administration/ BMC and ask them to make sure that the public toilets are maintained.”

Wildlife lover Kunal Chaudhari said, “There are public toilets at several locations in the colony but the biggest issue is that they are not properly maintained and so people are going out in the forest. High time the BMC and Aarey CEO office look into the same and come up with a solution.”

There are a total of 27 tribal hamlets and several slum pockets in Aarey Milk Colony with a human population of more than 30,000 people. The colony accommodates 505 license holders managing more than 16,000 animals across 32 tabelas on 240 acres of land.

The issue of sanitation in Aarey has been always a major one. A cattle farm owner who did not wish to be named said, “The structures of many cattle farms in Aarey Milk Colony are in a dilapidated state and the situation of the staff quarters and common toilets is the same because the Aarey CEO office does not give us permission to repair the structures or toilets. Because of this, staff members have no option but to defecate in the open.”

No. of tabelas in Aarey

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