As developers & activists Fight, Aarey tribals suffer silently

“We can clearly see the ulterior motive behind destroying the Aarey Colony green cover. The state government will directly benefit from the contracts they sell on the Aarey land. Under the blanket of development the government feels it can do anything unquestioned,” said Prakash Bhoir, an Aarey resident living in Ketlipada.

Mumbai : As the tussle between environmentalists and development authorities gets uglier, tribals living in Aarey Milk Colony continue to suffer in their own solitude.

With the rapid expansion of urban projects in the Aarey colony area, not only is the green cover getting affected but also the tribals staying there. Sadly, they are losing out on their ancestral properties, which comprises of farms, flat grasslands, forest areas and the village or pada areas.

“Despite activists, experts and even government bodies themselves suggesting alternate car shed locations like Kalina, Kanjurmarg, or Backbay, the state government turns a blind eye,” said Prakash Bhoir, an Aarey resident living in Ketlipada, adding, “We can clearly see the ulterior motive behind destroying the Aarey Colony green cover. The state government will directly benefit from the contracts they sell on the Aarey land. Under the blanket of development the government feels it can do anything unquestioned.”

There are currently over 10,000 Adivasis residing in 27 different padas (hamlets) in Aarey Milk colony at this very moment.

“When one talks about development, it is usually presumed one is talking about inclusive development. Where is our development in this case? And if by development they mean a small room after shedding acres of land, then we are absolutely not ready for such progress,” said Sanjay Padavi, another Aarey dweller living in Prajapur Pada who had to displace because of the car shed project.

“We don’t even have a say. We have to stay in lavish houses and have connections, only then our voices will be heard,” he added.

Opposing the reservation of land for the Metro car shed and other construction activities at Aarey Colony, tribal residents and NGOs held a silent protest march, , the Aarey Chhodo Andolan (leave Aarey protest) in August 2017. Protestors want freedom from environmental destruction of Aarey, which is a no-development zone.

“The Metro car shed project has already taken away homes and lands from the Adivasis. And opening up area for real estate projects will have an adverse effect on the lives of tribals for sure but it will also every Mumbaikar in the long run,” said Amrita Bhattacharjee, member of Aarey Conservation Group.

According to the Development Plan 2034, 33 hectares of Aarey Colony has been earmarked for the car shed. The shed is part of the underground 33.5-km Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro corridor that will intersect the existing Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar line.

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