Mumbai: 600-acre Aarey land near national park earmarked as forest
PTI Photo

In a major policy decision aimed at keeping its poll promise, the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi Government on Wednesday decided to reserve 600 acres or about 20 per cent of the total 3,166 acres of Aarey land near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park as forest. However, the government remains silent on the fate of Metro III carshed project being developed on 30 hectares in Aarey Colony, on which the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd has already spent Rs 450 crore.Sources at the departments of urban development and forests hinted that the Metro III carshed project is not likely to be touched.Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who chaired the meeting, tweeted, "600 acres of Aarey land near SGNP will be reserved as forest.

This will be the first instance of an extensive forest blossoming within the limits of a metropolis anywhere in the world.’’As per the government decision, section 4 of the Indian Forest Act (IFA) will be applied to declare 600 acres of land as forest. The government will invite suggestions and objections in 45 days and thereafter, it will decide which area is to be excluded from the forest. In the first phase, the government will exclude all types of construction, roads, slums, tribal pockets and government amenities from this initiative. Slum rehabilitation will be undertaken on a priority basis.The decision on Wednesday comes nine months and a day after Thackeray assumed office as CM on November 28, when he had stayed the construction of the Metro III carshed in Aarey saying he would not allow a culture where trees were cut in the night.

He had targeted his predecessor Devendra Fadnavis, whose government had come under fire from green activists in October 2019, when over 2,000 trees were felled in Aarey Colony,for the carshed in the thick of the night.Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray tweeted, "The Government has decided to apply section 4 of IFA to approximately 600 acres in Aarey land near SGNP. This implies that it will be declared a reserve forest after hearing for suggestions and objections. Phase 2 survey for additional open/ forest land in Aarey post phase I will begin soon. This would help the state protect the flora and fauna existent in SGNP and Aarey.’’

‘’I am deeply thankful to Dairy Development Minister Sunil Kedar for his stand to protect the flora and fauna of Aarey land and his cooperation with the Forest Minister Sanjay Rathod for the same. We look forward to moving forward on this proposal soon as decided today,’’ he added.Aaditya further said that 600 acres of open land has been declared as forest while the rights of Adivasi (tribal) communities would stand protected. Last year, he had said the Sena would “most definitely” declare Aarey Milk Colony a forest if it came back to power after the Maharashtra assembly elections.

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