"Hey, if you want I could sign this too." This is how Aaditya Thackeray responded when he saw a Twitter user urging his followers to sign an online petition addressed to the Maharashtra environment minister.
Dushyant, a journalist, has been asking his over 42,000 followers to sign the petition to Thackeray, demanding better protection of Mumbai's biodiversity.
Replying to one of his tweets, Thackeray said, "Hey, if you want I could sign this too. We’re working on most of these issues, since our quality of life and coexistence with nature is in direct connection with how we handle these issues. Thank you for taking this up."
The petition, in form of a letter to Thackeray, has been signed and emailed by 1811 people.
"We are writing to you about the biodiversity of Mumbai. Our city stands at a critical point, our incredibly rich ecosystem and low carbon footprint coming under threat from unsustainable planning and rapidly growing development. Through expert conversations and public dialogue, we have come to you with these requests," the letter published on a website called Ministry of Mumbai's Magic says.
"While all mangroves in Mumbai are declared protected forests as CZ1 areas, and their destruction is not allowed in most circumstances, we urge you to take further action. The Lesser Flamingos that flock to Mumbai every year must be protected, and their habitat preserved - they are a symbol of the city now! We are asking you to announce a special status of Lesser Flamingos as a protected species of Maharashtra. To cement their protection, we ask you to declare critical wetlands and mangroves in MMR (Sewri mudflats, Thane creek flamingo sanctuary, Gorai wetlands, Bhandup pumping station, Vasai-virar wetlands, Uran wetlands, TS Chanakya and Talawe wetlands) as no development protected areas," it says.
"Green cover and deforestation are major environmental issues for Mumbaikars, and they cut across class and geography. The Aarey Forest has become a lightning rod around which Mumbaikars have rallied for the city’s green spaces, and we urge you to keep that momentum going by acknowledging the Aarey forests as forests with a formal notification released in the public domain and declare them as no development protected areas," the letter further says.
"Moving to your own ward in Mumbai, the Koli fishing community has been hard-hit by the Covid pandemic, coastal development, and the industrial fishing industry. We must support the Koli fishing community’s livelihoods, which provide a sustainable alternative for fishing that will ultimately support our marine biodiversity. We are asking you to propose a policy that supports the livelihoods of the Koli community in the MMR, and protect Mumbai’s coast," it reads.
Noting that in the last months, through monsoon flooding, COVID-19 cases, and economic challenges, Maharashtra has remained a leader in environmental protection.
"Our generation represents the future leaders of Mumbai, and we ask that you protect our legacy of biodiversity," the letter further says.