The Maharashtra government on Wednesday decided to reserve 600 acre or about 20 per cent of the total 3,166 acres of Aarey land near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park as forest.
But, Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government remains silent on the fate of Metro III carshed project being developed on 30 hectares in Aarey Colony.
The decision to reserve 600-acre Aarey land near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) as a forest was taken during a meeting chaired by CM Uddhav Thackeray, who said, the forest would be the first example of a "huge jungle" being conserved at the centre of a megapolis, an official statement said. Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray, Forest Minister Sanjay Rathod, Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar and others were present for the meeting, the statement said.
Here's what we know so far:
During the meeting, CM Uddhav Thackeray instructed authorities to safeguard the rights of adivasis (tribals) while the area is reserved as forest. The area to be excluded from the forest will be ascertained after seeking suggestions and objections from citizens, the statement said.
Constructions of all types, roads, slums, adivasi pockets and government facilities will be excluded from the first phase of the initiative. The slums within the area will be rehabilitated immediately.
In a series of tweets after the meeting, Aaditya Thackeray said, Approx 600 acres of open land being declared as forest while all rights of Adivasi communities will stand protected.
"Approx 600 acres of open land being declared as forest while all rights of Adivasi communities will stand protected. Rehabilitation of slums within the area would be expedited. This wld be phase 1 for which the Forest Dept will move a proposal," he tweeted.
"Phase 2 survey for additional open/ forest land in Aarey, post Phase 1 will begin soon. This would help the State protect the flora & fauna existent in SGNP and Aarey, Aaditya Thackeray added.
He also thanked Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Sunil Kedar for his stand to protect the flora and fauna of Aarey land. "I’m deeply thankful to Minister Sunil Kedar ji for his stand to protect the flora and fauna of Aarey land and his cooperation with the Forest Minister @SanjayDRathods ji for the same. We look forward to moving forward on this proposal soon as decided today."
The forested Aarey Colony in suburban Goregaon is a prominent green lung of Mumbai. After coming to power in November, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had announced stay on construction of the metro car shed project in the green lung. 33.5 km underground Metro line 3 (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz) passes through Aarey Colony and the car shed was also supposed to come up in this forested area.
Then BJP-led government in Maharashtra had come under fire from green activists in October 2019, when over 2,000 trees were felled for a carshed, to be constructed in Aarey Colony which is adjacent to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The Shiv Sena, then junior partner in the Devendra Fadnavis government, had opposed the felling of trees.