This time the battle is to save the Aarey Forest and grassland area from several 'development' projects that the government has proposed.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Aarey, it is a 4,000 acre forest land that was given to the tabela (dairy farm) owners in 1949, when this part of the city was way beyond the outskirts of the original 'island city' that finished at Dadar. This was done because at that time having tabelas in the city was considered an eye sore. That is when this area became the Aarey Milk Colony and soon developed into a green forest and grassland. Now, however, this milk colony has become the heart of the city, with Bandra and Dahisar on the west and Sion and Mulund on the east, and can easily be called the lungs of 64% of Mumbai's population.
Aarey Milk Colony is home to more than 20,000 trees, 76 species of birds, 86 species of butterflies, 13 species of amphibians, 38 different types of reptiles, 19 species of spiders and 34 different types of wild flowers. Leopards, barking deer, sambar deer, spotted deer, rusty spotted cat, jungle cat, civets, monkeys still reside in large numbers in this area.
Aarey colony , if protected and valued can be Mumbai's Central park or Hyde park, because it boasts of flora, fauna and landscape similar to these parks in New York and London. The only problem is, the political will and the awareness of the citizens. Neither value the importance of this green cover that essentially has become the lungs of this over populated and polluted city.
The Aarey colony is in grave danger because of atleast five 'development' projects proposed by the government that basically amount to cutting down almost ALL the trees in the area. These projects are
1. Construction of Goregaon Mulund link road which proposes to widen the road from its current 20 feet to 90 feet, which means cutting down at least 1,000 trees.
2, Car shed for line three metro yard- which means cutting down atleast 5000 trees.
3. Setting up of Force 1 training camp
4. Extension of Byculla zoo
5. Private encroachments.
On a Sunday morning, after having publicized the protest on all possible platforms, only 5,00 people turned up for the protest, the no-show largely because an India Pakistan match was on! Without losing hope, however, we armed ourselves with slogans and banners and moved to the area that is covered with fences and a green cloth marking it as 'Car shed for Line III metro yard' and encloses many acres of land that was forest land just a few weeks ago but now looks like barren land with several road rollers, cranes, trucks etc.
There is a proposal to dig out many million tonnes of soil and dump it in the 'deep sea'. The truth is that 'deep sea dumping' leads to an imbalance in the water levels and that is why in the last few years the sea water has been coming onto the roads in Bandra, Dadar, Marine Drive, Gateway etc.
We got on the road rollers and trucks and made it clear to the MMRDA and we are unhappy about these mindless projects. There were children, women, the elderly, artists, photographers, journalists and every one was there for just one cause, save the trees.
The saveaarey campaign is a citizen led protest that started a few months ago and is working very passionately towards saving these 20,000 trees and the biodiversity that it is home to.
This is their website
This is their facebook page.
Next time when you are crossing the Aarey Colony please look out for the enclosed area with 'Car shed for Metro III yard' stop, get in, climb up on the cranes and road rollers, stop the men from working, click photos and upload them on your facebook and twitter pages.
This is important for all of us. Much more important than an India Pakistan cricket match on T.V. Next time, please do attend the protest and let the Government know that you care about Aarey.