The concerns of the tribals in the Aarey Colony mounted after forest officials at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park told them that a wall would be built alongside plot numbers 25 and 26 in the Aarey Colony.
On Friday morning, the forest officials had allegedly cut down ten trees at the site. The incident had miffed the local tribal folk and environmental activists who claimed that the forest officials had cut the trees without informing them.
"The forest department officials had asked us to meet them with our caste certificates and land documents on Monday. In the meeting, they gave us 15 days’ time, following which the officials said they would continue with the building of the wall," said Laxman Dalvi, a local tribal and a community leader.
There is already a wall built on plot number 25 and the forest department is now working on extending the wall till plot number 26 and 27. The local tribal also stated that the wall is being built by the forest officials for the construction of a proposed zoo.
"If the walls are built, the agricultural lands will become inaccessible for us as the security guards won't allow us to enter the land for agricultural works. Our main livelihood depends on farming in those lands," Dalvi added.
The tribal also said that they have submitted their documents to the Mumbai city magistrate earlier.
"We have been living here for more than 70 years now. We have documents to substantiate our claim. It's completely illegal to evict us from our land," said another tribal.
Meanwhile an official from the forest department maintained that the wall building project is not related to the zoo.
"It is for the protection of the forest, not the zoo," said the forest department officer.