After it failed to produce documents that prove that Aarey was not part of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivli, the state forest department said that it was preparing a map of Aarey Milk Colony based on the documents that were available.
It was allowed 45 days by the western bench of the National Green Tribunal, Pune, to produce relevant documents, which prov ethat Aarey Milk Colony was not a part of SGNP. the department failed to submit them at a hearing on Monday.
“All documents are in place, but since the NGT asked us for a map of Aarey, it is being prepared. The suburban collector and superintendent of land records are preparing it,” said Sunil Limaye, chief conservator of forest, Thane territorial. “We will submit it during the next hearing. There is nothing to hide in terms of documents as everything has already been submitted to the NGT.”
The next hearing has been scheduled for April 20.
The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited has plans to construct a car-shed for the Metro 3 project at Aarey across 33 hectares. However, the NGT bench had put an interim stay on any construction on the green lung until final orders. In June last year, NGOs Vanashakti and Aarey Conservation Group (ACG) had filed a petition seeking protection of the Aarey landscape and maintain it as a no-development zone.
During the March 29 hearing, the forest department said that 1,280 hectares of Aarey was utilised for non-forest activities since 1949, and pleaded that construction be allowed.
On February 17, NGO Vanashakti had submitted an affidavit, which said that large tracks of land from Aarey Colony, Goregaon, were transferred to SGNP at the time of the expansion of the park, according to a right-to-information (RTI) document. “On July 22, 1980, an official communication was sent from the office of the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra Limited (FDCM), Nagpur to the Regional Manager, FDCM, Thane that 2076.073 hectares of revenue land was transferred from Aarey Milk Scheme to be included in Borivali National Park,” read the affidavit that attached annexures of the document undersigned by LP Palimkar, then divisional manager, Borivli National Park.
Aarey residents and environmentalists alleged that the forest department was covering up the issue, and questioned why original maps were not available to them. “The maps are not something that can be prepared overnight and needs to be updated regularly. This shows that there is some vested interest somewhere,” said Biju Augustine, environmentalist and Aarey resident. “If there are documents, the original revenue map needs to be produced.”