A piece of pleasant and comforting news came from Maharashtra on Sunday. The Maharashtra government has declared 800 acres area of Aarey in Mumbai as ‘Forest Reserve.’ In other words, there will no longer be any construction in the area, and it will be the responsibility of the government to keep it secure and preserved.
The whole war started with Aarey region around September-October last year. At that time, Maharashtra’s BJP-led government had decided to cut 2700 trees for the construction of a metro shed. Now the present government has decided to shift the work of the metro shed to another place.
Since the dense forest area in Mumbai is already negligible due to dense settlement, people were quite angry about it. You can assess the importance of Aarey by the fact that there are five lakh trees and a large variety of animals in the whole area.
In the context of Mumbai, if Aarey is called another name for biodiversity, it will not be wrong. When this matter reached the Bombay High Court at that time, the court had flatly refused to declare Aare a ‘jungle’ or overrule the Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s decision.
After this, many trees were bulldozed overnight in a dramatic tussle between environmental activists and BMC employees. But all credit goes to the law students who wrote to the CJI (then) Ranjan Gogoi and demanded the intervention of the Supreme Court in the case. And the court had also granted a stay on the Aarey during that time.
An interesting fact is that CM Uddhav Thackeray and Aditya Thackeray stood up against the government’s decision even while in the government at that time.
The most beautiful thing in this whole case was Aditya Thackeray’s tweet. After the decision of Shivsena led Maharashtra government, he wrote, Aarey Saved! Apart from Aarey, Aditya Thackeray’s sensitivity to the environment has also come to the fore.
In the lockdown period, a 400-year-old banyan tree was to be cut for construction of a state highway in the Sangli district of Maharashtra. NHAI was making this highway. When the matter reached Aditya Thackeray via social media, he immediately wrote a letter to Road and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari. Gadkari also took notice of the case showing seriousness, and the decision to cut the 400-year-old tree was cancelled.
Instead of a rich courtyard filled with flowers and leaves, our generation is now growing up with four-six pots hanging in the terraced garden or balcony. The importance of forests must be iterated. Perhaps that is why Aditya Thackeray also raises hope despite Shiv Sena’s poor track record.