This International Forest Day, You Need To Know The Story Of Mumbai’s Dying Greens

Posted by Krishna Thorat in Environment, Society
March 21, 2018

Thirty-three hectares of the Aarey Colony land have been formally ‘deleted’ from the No-Development Zone (NDZ) and reserved for the Metro III car depot/workshop and allied uses.

The metro yard project is just the beginning of the end for Aarey’s biodiversity. Once the car shed is completed, the result will be an extensive alteration of the landscape, and the next follow-up project is also in the pipeline. Also, the road-widening (by 50 feet or more) will entail the cutting down of 1,000 trees or more on both sides.

Trees can cool cities by two to eight degrees. When planted near buildings, trees can cut down the use of air conditioners by 30% – and, according to the UN Urban Forestry office, they can also reduce heating energy use by a further 20-50%. One large tree can absorb 150 kilograms of carbon dioxide a year, as well as filter some of the airborne pollutants, including fine particulates.

So the question is, why cut down trees at Aarey for a metro car shed when we have other alternate options?

The government, in reality, has nine other options, but for them, it will be more profitable to build a shed within Aarey. Real estate profit-making is the only reason for them to be coming into Aarey.

Over the past three years, environmentalists have been at loggerheads with the MMRC, regarding the construction of a car shed at Aarey, which the former considers a forest. While activists said that they are not against the metro project, they do not want the No-Development Zone tag to be removed from Aarey and then opened up for construction.

Members of “Vanashakti” said that when options were already there for the car shed, there was no need to acquire land at Aarey. The need for land to build a depot could also be met by the land at Kalina, Bandra Kurla Complex, Kanjurmarg, Sariput Nagar, Mumbai Port Trust as well, the NGO said.

As an amateur tree lover, I do believe that there is a need to create enough breathing space for these residents in the form of open, green, recreational areas. Aarey can be developed as a world-class recreational area, which can attain international acclaim. We can have hiking and bike trails, picnic spots, nature trails, botanical gardens – and the development can be done without cutting down 100-year-old trees.

I would also like to point out that Aarey is the floodplain of the Mithi river. For those of you who don’t know what a floodplain is, it is an area of land which is adjacent to a river which stretches from the banks of its channel to the base of the enclosing river walls. It experiences flooding during periods of high discharge.

So what does that mean? It means that if we go ahead and let this construction happen, there will be nothing that will stop the city from drowning in case another cloudburst happens. I cannot stress enough that it is extremely critical for us Mumbaikars to take a stand now.

Here are some other reasons why I think we, the citizens of Mumbai must come forward and actively participate in saving Aarey:

1. Aarey Helps Us Breathe Better

The trees at Aarey pump out the oxygen we need to live and absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale (or emit). A single mature, leafy tree is estimated to produce a day’s supply of oxygen for anywhere between two to 10 people.

2. Aarey Helps Keep The City Cool

No, I’m not talking about the style quotient of living in a city which has an urban forest. It literally cools down our city’s temperature. It regulates regional temperatures, and it also prevents our city to turn into a ‘heat island’.

3. Aarey Muffles Up The Noise Pollution

Ever been really annoyed listening to the traffic? Or perhaps of the boisterously-loud religious celebrations which happen throughout the year? You will agree, it is not music to the ears.

4. Aarey Helps To Prevent Flooding And Cleans Up Dirty Soil

During times of heavy rainfall, the trees help absorb excess water and slows down the flood-flow. In a dirty city like ours, they also help absorb sewage overflows, roadside spills or contaminated runoff. Did I mention that Aarey is also a floodplain?!

5. Aarey Helps Us Explore And Relax

Natural scenery and exposure to forests have been shown to boost creativity, suppress attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety, speed up recovery, and encourage meditation and mindfulness. It may even help us live longer. It’s also the perfect getaway from our monotonous, busy city life. It really does transform your enjoyment of being out and about.

Help save Aarey. It’s your forest too. You can help Mumbai be a greener city. Give a missed call at 08039513512 to register your protest to #SaveAareyForest.

Do you have your own reasons why Aarey matters? Please tell us in the comments below.