All about aarey forest. All the hopes of the environmentalists and activists protesting against the proposed Mumbai Metro Project at the cost of a piece of Aarey forest, get a setback when High Court on 04.10.2019 rejected the petitions against decision of National Green Tribunal (NGT) of declaring Aarey as non-forest area. The court decision allows Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRCL) felling around 2500 trees in the Aarey forest to carry out the metro project.
About Aarey forest:
Aarey is one of the last remaining green patches in mumbai. It is situated in Goregaon, and is termed as the green lungs of the city.
Aarey was once a part of a deciduous stretch of forests, now restricted to the adjacent Sanjay Gandhi National Park and the hillocks.
Aarey, that used to be about 3,000 acres of forest land in North Mumbai, has been reduced to just 1,300 acres after much of the land was handed over to Aarey Milk Colony for dairy development projects. And since being converted into an agricultural land, it has been diminishing in bits and pieces.
Who will be affected most from this metro project?
Like every other development project, this project also comes at the cost of interests of those who are most vulnerable and whose voices are always ignored. Following are the parties that are most affected from the project:
1. Wild life: Aarey forest hosts a variety of tree species upon which depends the life of several species of birds, insects and animals. The destruction of the area will make them homeless and is a risk to their survival.
2. Locals: The residents of Aarey mainly comprise of Warli tribe, who are also Mumbai’s oldest residents, will be displaced from their homes due to this project. There are more than 1000 such households who will be affected. These tribals have been engaged in a constant struggle for survival since the government started handing over parcels of their land to various entities for development projects.
3. Environment: A tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year and can sequester 1 ton of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 40 years old. We all need forests, and if we sit quiet and do nothing about it, we will have no right to claim fresh air to breathe. Felling of trees in Aarey forest will lead to increase in the pollution level.
Justification given by MMRCL:
As per MMRCL, the project will help in reducing pollution level by offering an alternative to the motor vehicles. It will also reduce the number of deaths due to accidents which are caused due to overcrowded public transports.
Development should always be inclusive. Development for so called “mainstream” at the cost of welfare of vulnerable and weaker community cannot be termed as “Development” in true sense. Any project should be embarked upon only after taking into account the voices of all stakeholders involved irrespective of their socio-politico-economic status and all possible impacts it will have on environment. There is no rationale in substituting a natural air purifier with a man made project on the pretext of reducing pollution level. We already have done much harm to the environment and any further action against it will only make the situation worse.
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