A look at this photograph without any prompts or clues and we would think that this is from some dope destination in the Sahyadri mountain range or maybe some other green destination in the Konkan belt.
Surprisingly, it’s not from any of those places. This is an image that a friend of mine clicked in Mumbai. No, I am not talking about someplace so close to Mumbai to be counted as a part of Mumbai. This is actually Mumbai. This is the Aarey Forest, the country’s only urban forest and this image does not even show half of how big it actually is.
The Aarey Forest, colloquially known as Aarey Colony, boasts of a variety of species of flora and fauna. Unfortunately, this forest might not remain a green forest for long. The government has a plan to make it a site for the new metro line, a metro car shed and also a government residence block. In doing so, they are planning to chop down some 3,000 trees.
Now you might argue, what are 3,000 trees when compared with an entire forest? Here’s the thing though. These are not just individual trees, it’s an entire ecosystem. Yes, the government has promised that it would plant an equal number of saplings in an alternate venue. But that essentially is a waste of time because for those saplings to grow back to trees and form an ecosystem would take a lot of time. And that’s not even the least of our problems. By cutting them down, we’re not just losing the trees and the fresh air but we’re also losing a lot of precious species of flora and fauna. Species which are native to this forest and can only be found here. The Aarey Forest is also home to a number of tribal people and by cutting it down, we are essentially rendering them homeless.
Now, you can also argue in support of them being chopped down. So what if a few of the trees are being cut down? In lieu of that, we would be getting a new metro line and hence more jobs which leads to development and a boost to the economy. Great, we would get a metro. I am all too happy about that. That saves me from the trouble of having to travel in the godforsaken Andheri traffic.
I am all in for development but what I am not in for is development at the cost of another thing. That’s basically like improving your team’s batting skills at the cost of its bowling skills.
What we need to have is a more sustainable model where we don’t compromise on the integrity of either of them and ensure that each of them coexists without hampering one another’s progress.
Now, none of you have to take me at my word on how beautiful this place is. All you really have to do is just visit the damn place because it is so close to any part of the city. Who knows, you might even end up agreeing with me that we need to save this beautiful piece of land.
If you believe that this is something that resonates with your beliefs and ideologies, do check out the Save Aarey Movement. It’s a citizen-led movement that has been fighting to preserve the forests from needless destruction.