Maharashtra Minister of Environment Aaditya Thackeray, who was spearheading a high voltage campaign to save trees at Aarey Colony last year, has now taken up the initiative for protection of a Banyan tree with 400 sq m spread in the Sangli district. The tree incidentally is habitat for bat and other rare species.
In a letter to Union Minister of Roads Nitin Gadkari, he has said that the tree is situated in front of the Yalamma temple on the Miraj-Pandharpur highway in Sangli district. ''The tree is a treasure and home for bat and other species,’’ he noted.
''The Miraj sub divisional officer in his report has said that this ancient tree will have to be cut because of the construction of National Highway 166. Otherwise, an alternate tract of land will have to be identified for the highway, bypassing this location,’’ Aaditya said in his letter. At the same time, he has thanked Gadkari for the construction of National Highway 166, as it will benefit farmers and the local population in a big way.
However, Aaditya pleaded that the protection of an ancient tree is equally important considering the damage to the environment. ‘’Kindly amend the alignment of the National Highway 166 a bit and protect the Banyan tree,’’ he noted.
Last month, Aaditya had sent a letter to the Union Minister of Environment to exclude coal blocks adjacent to the Tadoba Tiger Reserve. The coal blocks have been shortlisted by the Union Ministry of Coal for auctioning.
Similarly, an year ago, Aaditya, despite the Shiv Sena being the ruling BJP’s ally in the state, had described tree felling in Aarey Colony as “shameful and disgusting”. “How about posting these officials in PoK [Pakistan occupied Kashmir], giving them charge to destroy terror camps rather than trees?” he had said on Twitter.
After the Maha Vikas Aghadi Government assumed office, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had stayed the construction of Metro car shed in Aarey Colony. The government is yet to lift the stay, though it has supported the completion of Metro rail corridors in Greater Mumbai.