Mumbai: 600 acres of Aarey will be declared as Reserved Forest.

The city’s unique urban forest is set to grow bigger as 600 acres of Aarey milk colony will be declared as a reserved forest. The decision taken by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday comes as a clear victory of Mumbai’s citizen who had refused to give up and fought hard to save the green area.

The move came days after the CM directed government department to look for an alternative to the Line 3 Metro car shades in Aarey, either in Pahadi-Goregaon or Kanjurmarg.

In a tweet the CMO of Maharashtra tweeted that 600 acres of Aarey land near Sanjay Gandhi National park will be reserved as a forest area. This will be the first instance of an extensive forest blossoming within the limits of a metropolis anywhere in the world.ity

Revenue and forest principal secretary Milind Mhaiskar said it is a bold decision and shows sensitivity to the environment he said Aarey colony land starting near the northern boundary of Sanjay Gandhi National park to the proposed 90 acres zoo and goes further south will be declared as a forest

This land is clear of infrastructure projects and only has some Adivasi Padas. The government may propose eco tourism, night safari or may simply let it stay as a core forest area. It includes the land around the New Zealand hostel area but excludes slum encroachments, film city and other infrastructures in that area.

The meeting at which the decision was taken was held at Varsha the Chief Ministers official bungalow and was attended by dairy development minister and environment minister .the Manor Saunik committee that had strongly recommended that the car shed remain at Aarey had also suggested that parts of Aarey have characteristics of a forest and should be declared as such.

Mhaiskar said once a proposal is received from the dairy development department and the collector’s office to declare the 600 acres as forest, the revenue and forest department will issue a notice under section 4 of the Indian forest act, invite objection and suggestion, hold hearing and then declare it as a forest.

Thackeray Junior in a tweet said 600 acres would be declared as reserved forest in phase1, phase 2 surveys 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.

D Stalin of NGO Vanashakti that led the Save Aarey Movement filling the petition before the National Green Tribunal, Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court welcomed the move, saying the Thackeray government is sincere in its commitment.

Finally we have an honest admission about Aarey being a forest. When the forest gets recognised, tribal rights are protected and slum dwellers get a fair deal I think its win-win situation.

Amrita Bhattacharjee of the Aarey conservation group said it is a good initiative. Aarey is the catchment for Mithi and Oshiwara river and hence we would request the government to declare the entire Aarey colony as a reserved forest or natural area.

Credit: Kshitish shirodkar

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