Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray announced that the state government would designate a 600-acre parcel of land as a reserved forest in Mumbai.
Where is this land located?
The Aarey Milk Colony, spread over 3,162 acres, is a centre for processing and marketing milk for Mumbai and adjoining areas. Over the last 70 years, this sprawling green area has been steadily eaten away at its edges – and 1,282 acres were acquired by the state for projects such as Film City.
The land falls under the eco-sensitive zone of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, and is home to around 10,000 individuals who live in 27 tribal hamlets.
As Mumbai rapidly urbanised, and took up big ticket infrastructure projects like the Metro, a section of urban and transport planners had voiced the need to utilise a part of this sprawling open space.
Why Aarey milk colony?
Aarey has been at the centre of a storm since October last year, after the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) decided to construct a car shed for the Rs 32,000 crore underground Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro corridor, and cleared the site of over 2,000 trees, leading to a public outcry.
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What is the process of earmarking the land as a forest?
Under Section 4 of The Indian Forest Act, 1927, the state government can “constitute any land a reserved forest” by issuing a notification in the Official Gazette, “declaring that it has been decided to constitute such land a reserved forest”, and “specifying, as nearly as possible, the situation and limits of such land”.
Under the law, the government must also appoint a Forest Settlement Officer (FSO) “to inquire into and determine the existence, nature and extent of any rights alleged to exist in favour of any person in or over any land comprised within such limits or in or over any forest-produce, and to deal with the same”.
The FSO will seek suggestions and objections from residents and others within 45 days of initiating the process. After taking into account the suggestions and objections, the process of turning the land into a reserved forest will be completed. Thereafter, the area will be protected from any construction.
(With inputs from Indian Express)