The Maharashtra Government on Thursday released preliminary notification declaring 328.90-hectare Aarey land comprising 288.43 hectare of dairy development department and 40.46 hectare of forest department near Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) as reserved forest and declaration of intent.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on September 2 had directed the departments of forest and dairy development to take necessary action in this regard. The land is currently situated in Aarey Milk Colony which is under the jurisdiction of dairy development department.
Forest Minister Sanjay Rathod said the land has been declared the reserved forest under section 4 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
According to the preliminary notification, the Forest Settlement Officer Konkan Navi Mumbai will hold an inquiry about the rights, nature and scope of this land. The area to be excluded from the forest will be ascertained after seeking suggestions and objections from citizens. Since the issue of notification, the suggestions and objections are expected to be submitted within three months.
Constructions of all types, roads, slums, adivasi pockets and government facilities will be excluded from the first phase of the initiative. The slum rehabilitation will continue as a parallel exercise.
An appeal can be made against the Forest Settlement Officer’s decision to the Mumbai Suburban District Collector, said Rathod. Thereafter the government will issue a final notification under section 20 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927. The entire reserved forest will come under the Forest Department’s jurisdiction.
Thackeray expects the reserved forest would be the first example of a “huge jungle” being conserved at the centre of Mumbai. Tourism and Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray hopes the reserved forest would help the State protect the flora & fauna existent in Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Aarey Colony.