Last update:
2019-05-26

Aarey Forest threatened by new DP2034 (Multiple Development Projects), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Disregarding presence of valuable biodiversity (including leopards) at Aarey Milk Colony, the state government diverts forest land for building a polluting metro carshed and for real estate development.


Description:

The 1200 Ha Aarey Milk Colony is a biodiversity hub and a catchment area for the Mithi River that flows through the city of Mumbai. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) wants to locate its metro car shed within the forest. They have demanded the denotification of 165 Ha of forest land for this purpose.  Despite citizens' outrage and the availability of 7 other alternate locations, the government of Maharashtra remains adamant about locating its carshed here. There have been allegations that the zoning of Aarey forest (From NDZ to Commercial) in the new Development Plan has been changed to benefit the builder lobbies in the city. The government has further denied in open court that Aarey is a forest despite the fact that government records clearly show the land having been declared as a forest as far back as 1969.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Aarey Forest threatened by new DP2034 (Multiple Development Projects), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Country:India
State or province:Maharashtra
Location of conflict:Goregaon, Mumbai
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Establishment of reserves/national parks
Urban development conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Ecosystem Services
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Summary of various proposed and constructed projects over the years in Aarey:

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Project area:1200
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:10,000
Start of the conflict:23/11/2014
Company names or state enterprises:Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) from India
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC)
Maharashtra Government from India
Maharashtra Forest Department from India
Relevant government actors:Sudhir Mungantiwar - State Forest Minister
Devendra Fadnavis - Chief Minister, Maharashtra
Ashwini Bhide - MD, MMRCL
International and Finance InstitutionsJapan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) (JICA) from Japan
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Vanashakti - http://www.vanashakti.in/
Aarey Conservation Group - http://aareyconservationgroup.org/
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Other Environmental impacts
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:The conflict is ongoing. No outcome can be seen so far.
Development of alternatives:In 2015, In reaction to the public objection, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis set up an expert committee consisting of 4 government servants and 2 environmentalists - one from NEERI and the other from IIT. The following options were considered and the Kanjurmarg option was recommended by the committee.
First option is backbay which has a reservation. There is no issue there, it’s a reserved plot of land and meant for this facility.
Second one is a port trust land. Port trust lands run into 100 acres or more. 100s of acres of land is available at the car park. It’s a land which is not being used, there are defunct or abandoned godowns there and it is the best place for locating this because the tree cover is very minimal and the damage would be very less.
Third option is mahalaxmi race course. Mahalaxmi race course was handed over to the MMRDA to be used for the metro car shed but they chose to withdraw from the mahalaxmi car shed for reasons best known to them and they came to aarey. The reason given by the MMRCA was that the race course had a heritage structure on it. The heritage structure is a spectators stand which is a grade three heritage structure. Horse racing has stopped and there is enough open land next to it. Yet, they did not use it. The lease for the horse racing has expired and the land is available to the government. And the basic fact remains that this land was given to them and they chose to walk out of it.
Fourth Option is BKC. MMRCL refused point blank to consider it saying that it is high real estate. This must be the only country in the world where a land with 4000 trees on it next to river is less precious than a land that has no trees on it. The land at BKC is barren – there are no trees on it and most importantly it is in the custody of MMRDA.
Fifth option was kalina university. Kalina university has enough land which is lying unused since the past two decades. It has been encroached by slums and there are vested interests at play that are trying to grab that land. Interestingly, this land was also sought and accepted as an option in the project report. Now kalina – they are saying that the land is not sufficient. There is more than 25 hectares of land available at kalina.
Sixth option is dharavi. It’s a huge slum – massive property which has to be eventually redeveloped – all alum dwellers need to be re settled. They cant be living in filth all their lives – it has been part of the government’s plan for many years now. Moving the slum dwellers and locating the car shed there would benefit everyone.
Seventh option There is enough land inside SEEPZ, inside the MIDC for this car shed. Its very visible – they have not considered that.
Eighth Option Now the most viable and most available land is the kanjurmarg dumping grounds. Kanjurmarg is an abandoned salt pan which does not receive any tide water for the last 15 years. The land is barren hard and it is available.
Kanjurmarg has more than 250 acres of land – enough to accommodate a metro shed and a complete transport hub. They said that there is a litigation going on this land. If kanjurmarg was not suitable, why did the Maharashtra state government go to the Bombay high court and file a petition that this land was suitable for construction and since aarey was an ecosensitive zone, the court should grant permission to build a metro shed there?
They filed this petition in 2016. MMRCL has made no effort to even mention this matter in the court or even pursue it. They did not follow up the case and the case if lying there. There is land in kanjurmarg for 10 metro sheds, not one and it is still available and it is possible
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain: Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Aarey Forest are lush green oases; they not only tackle pollution and floods but also help bring down temperatures. They are home to indigenous peoples and hold great biodiversity. Nevertheless, part of this area is about to be sacrificed for "development".
Sources and Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Chaaipaani has done this informative video on the controversy
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Every week, Eco India brings you stories of innovations from across India and Europe, and the people who make them possible. Our top story on Eco India this week looks at why it is important to protect the Aarey ecosystem to prevent Mumbai from becoming an environmental liability.
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Scroll.in video about the conflict.
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Zoru Bhathena explains the issue in detail
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Interview of STalin Dayanand, Director, Vanashakti - the NGO that has filed 3 PILs in the Supreme Court and the High Court for Aarey Forest
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In a unique protest against the illegal cutting down to tress in the Aarey colony, thousand of Mumbaiker gathered in a public hearing against the Metro Line 3 car shed. People from all walks of life including students, activist, working professionals, Senior citizens, tribals and even Bollywood celebrities were present at the hearing.The protesting citizens submitted More than 37,000 objections to the Tree Authority at Byculla Zoo (Jijamata Udyan) The gardens department of the BMC’s had invited objections from people over the proposal put forward by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRC) to cut down 2,702 trees of the total number of 3,691 at the site of the Metro project.
[click to view]

For an overall understanding of the Aarey forest - Mumbai Metro controversy
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Scroll.in capturing leopard activity in Aarey Forest. Aarey has 8 resident leopards. However the government of Maharashtra has claimed that Aarey has no biodiversity and it is infact, acc to them, not a forest.
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An informative sketch art video on the controversy
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Watch this video to learn more about the scam within the scam that is ongoing at Aarey Forest. Stalin Dayanand, Director and Founder, Vanashakti explains how in the name of tree transplantation money is being made and the public is being fooled. It has been proven time and again that compensatory afforestation and transplantation are both failed policeis. Neither one of them have yielded any results. And yet we are allowing large forest land parcels to be cleared off because someone is saying that they are going to plant twice the amount of trees that they are felling. When will be stop falling for this nonsense?
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The pop music band Maati Baani created this musical ode with a powerful rap by Saee Barve to raise awareness about the Aarey forest controversy and appeal the government to move its car shed out of the forest.
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The Warli Revolt by Swadesi Nation:



It's time for the revolution to begin. Fight for the ones who dont have a voice, fight for the for the ones who are being pushed out of their lands, fight for the trees, birds and the leopards. Development is not destruction. A year in the making featuring the tribal chieftain of Aarey - Prakash Bhoir ji. We give you - The Warli Revolt.
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

The google document link provides a list of articles on the topic. Kindly refer.
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More information and updates may be found here
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A collaborative initiative between citizens, wildlife researchers and the forest department is monitoring and collecting data on wildlife, particularly leopards, in Aarey Milk Colony in Mumbai, Maharashtra.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

The facebook page of the community of citizens trying to save aarey forest from being razed to the ground.
[click to view]

Other documents

Tree cutting notices put up by MMRCl at Aarey forest
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Aarey forest
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PIL This PIL was filed by Amrita Bhatacharjee and Biju Augustine challenging the removal of Aarey from No development Zone in the new Dp34. This case is now in the Supreme Court.
[click to view]

Aarey photographs
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Aarey forest photo
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MMRCL AArey forest
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Tree cutting notices put up by MMRCl at Aarey forest
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Illegal tree cutting carried out by MMRCL at Aarey
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Save Aarey Forest - Mumbai’s Green Lungs
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Radhika Jhaveri, Aarey Conservation Group, [email protected]
Last update26/05/2019
Comments
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