MUMBAI: The Government of Maharashtra announced on Wednesday, September 2, that it will declare 600 acres of land in Aarey Milk Colony near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the city as a reserve forest and conserve it. Aaditya Thackeray, Minister of Environment, Government of Maharashtra, said that the state government has decided to constitute the land as a reserve forest under Section 4 of the Indian Forest Act. “Approximately 600 acres of open land being declared as forest while all rights of Adivasi communities will stand protected,” he said in a tweet. He added that rehabilitation of slums within the area would be expedited. This will mark the first phase of the process and the state Forest department will move a proposal for the same.
Post this, the second phase will include a survey for additional open or forest land in Aarey. Thackeray said that this will help the state in protecting the flora and fauna of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Aarey. The decision to declare Aarey as a reserve forest was taken during a meeting chaired by Uddhav Thackeray, Chief Minister, Maharashtra, who claimed that this would be the first instance of an ‘extensive forest blossoming’ within the limits of a metropolis anywhere in the world.
A statement released by the Maharashtra government said the area to be excluded from the forest will be ascertained after seeking suggestions and objections from citizens. Besides this, construction of “all types, roads, slums, adivasi pockets and government facilities” will be excluded from the first phase of the initiative, it added.