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State body admits Aarey as a part of SGNP before SC

The CEO of the Aarey administration in a counter-affidavit filed in the Supreme Court stated that the forests in Goregaon are part of the SGNP.

State body admits Aarey as a part of SGNP before SC
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The Aarey forests have been a subject of disagreements for the last four years ever since a proposal to build a car-shed for the Metro three line (Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ) was put across.

The chief executive officer (CEO) of the Aarey administration in a counter-affidavit filed in the Supreme Court (SC) stated that the forests in Goregaon are part of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP). This is the first time any state body has put on record that Aarey is adjacent to the national park. This statement sheds light on the fact that while Aarey is not an authorized forest, all the actions against encroachments and tree felling were taken up in ‘forest areas’.

The Aarey forests have been the last remaining patch of greenery in the city of Mumbai. Several activists have been battling against the felling of trees. The forest is home to rich biodiversity which is being damaged as a consequence of the development projects. There are 27 tribal hamlets within Aarey Colony with nine hamlets across Force One, Film City, Veterinary College and SRPF areas.

Aarey CEO Nathu Rathod has filed a counter-affidavit on May 5 in response to an interim application filed by environment group Vanashakti during the last week of April (in other Aarey-related petitions before the SC) against multiple state bodies which include the forest department and Aarey administration. Vanashakti alleged illegal tree felling, forest fires, and rising encroachments at Aarey despite there being an imposition of a lockdown. Furthermore, Vanashakti sought the protection of the area and action against the ones who are felling the greenery. The counter-affidavit was received and made public by co-petitioner and activist Zoru Bhathena on Sunday.

The Aarey colony have been known as the green lungs of Mumbai for a very long time. This region is said to have more than five lakh trees combining the Sanjay Gandhi Nation Park. Protesters and activists had been organizing demonstrations and pressing the government in several ways to stop the axing of the trees.

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