On February 27, 2022 residents and activists demonstrated a protest as the metro car shed land in Aarey is still sealed and there are no official papers clarifying the area to fall under the protected forest. More trees were axed inside Aarey colony, again. Unit number 19 witnessed a forced plight on February 9, 2022 when the workers were reported to be dismantling the Adani power supply, further damaging the trees. The incident was immediately reported and the authorities were quick to react upon the ongoing situation given the fact that the area has already seen a number of protests to save the trees and protect the wild animals living inside, the last one being the October 2019 Aarey Forest protests.
What Is Aarey Forest And Colony?
Aarey is a part of Sanjay Gandhi national park located in the eastern part of Goregaon, Mumbai. While the land is spread over 2000 acres, it is one of the only green spaces left in the heart of Mumbai. This forest also acts as a buffer area for the wildlife to come in and go out of the national park avoiding them directly entering into the city.
As much as it is a home to the wild life it is also a home to the Adivasi/indigenous people forming 27 colonies within the area. The tribal in the area work hard to make their livelihood by farming and selling the produce in the markets as the government has repeatedly failed to provide them with basic amenities like streetlights or toilets in quite a few areas.
Aarey Protest 2019
Residents and environmentalists came together to protest after all petitions for Aarey to be a forest were dismissed by the high court. The October 21 protest came in shortly after the Bombay high court approved Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited’s (MMRCL) proposal of felling trees in the forest to build a car shed to have a “mass rapid transport system”.
Hours after the Bombay high court rejected 4 petitions against the felling of over 2600 trees, the MMRCL continued their project and swung into action. While the protestors were protesting the police imposed sec 144 banning unlawful assembly. The clash between the police and the protestors resulted in 29 arrests and 55 detainees including individuals from various NGOs and political parties.
What’s Happening Now
Stalin D, director of NGO Vanashakti, who was also at the forefront of the Save Aarey movement, stressed the need to bring all of the Aarey’s 1260 acres of land under the jurisdiction of Indian Forest Act 1927. He also underscored the matter of how the metro carshed project should be established at Kanjurmarg to secure the area. Stalin explained how the Aarey conflict remains a matter of active concern as the “governments are a subject to change” and that MVA (Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi) will fight with the intention of protecting the forest. And yet the unit 19 within the colony saw a number of workers trying to fell branches of trees along with police protection.
On other hand the residents of the Aarey colony received notice from slum rehabilitation authority. Most residents of the colony refused to cooperate with the police who visited the Padas between February 1 and February 4. The cabinet minister Jitendra Awhad intervened to resolve the issue of illegal eviction of three Adivasi padas of Aarey colony in P-south ward. The three Padas, as per a 2013 survey by the Tribal Research and Training Institute (Pune), are home to an estimated 418 households, with about 352 of them belonging to members of the Warli, Malhar Koli, and Kokana tribes. One of the residents, Prakash Bhoir, even shared a copy of a 2016 Bombay high court order which prohibits evicting any Adivasi residents of Aarey. On 7th June, 2021 Shiv Sena government announced that the Aarey land was handed over to the Maharashtra government. Aarey colony comprises over 125 hectares in Borivali, 71 hectares in Goregaon and 89 hectares in Marol Maroshi. It was declared as a forest, however the Kanjur Marg plot is stuck in litigation with the Central Government and the work is still being executed despite being halted.