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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

How’ll metro impact Aarey species? Int’l body to check

IUCN’s decision comes after city-based wildlife conservation group Empower Foundation submitted its second report – titled “Evidences of Wildlife in Aarey Forest” – within a week to the India office of IUCN on Wednesday.

mumbai Updated: Sep 12, 2019 01:59 IST
Aarey is spread across 1,281 hectares (ha) in the western suburbs of Mumbai.
Aarey is spread across 1,281 hectares (ha) in the western suburbs of Mumbai. (HT image)
         

The India office of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has said it will assess the impact of the Metro-3 car depot construction at Aarey Milk Colony on the rare and threatened species that may be found in the city’s green lung. According to a report submitted to the IUCN, the area is home to more than 290 wild species of flora and fauna, some of which are categorised as “near threatened” or “vulnerable”.

IUCN’s decision comes after city-based wildlife conservation group Empower Foundation submitted its second report – titled “Evidences of Wildlife in Aarey Forest” – within a week to the India office of IUCN on Wednesday. Among the hundreds of species of animals and flora found in Aarey, Empower Foundation highlighted the presence of five wildlife species that are categorised as “near threatened” or “vulnerable” under IUCN’s Red List. Rusty spotted cats and the Alexandrine parakeet are listed as “near threatened” while leopards, sambar deer and the red wattled lapwing are classified as “vulnerable”.

“IUCN expects conservation aspects will be taken care of while integrating a project (Metro-3) of this magnitude,” said Vivek Saxena, the India head of IUCN and former deputy inspector general of forests (wildlife), Union environment ministry. “We need to first go through details of this issue. IUCN recommendations are always for the conservation of wildlife, especially species on the Red List, as per national laws and mitigation measures.” Saxena said he needed feedback and input from the state government on the issue.

Aarey is spread across 1,281 hectares (ha) in the western suburbs of Mumbai. The Maharashtra government plans to build a car depot as part across 33 ha as part of the Metro project, which will require the felling of over 2,600 trees. According to a 2019 study, there are at least nine leopards, protected under schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, in Aarey.

On Saturday, Empower Foundation had submitted its first report to IUCN, in which it alleged that the construction of the car shed was being undertaken without approval from the standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife under the Union environment ministry and in defiance of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and Biological Diversity Rules, 2004.

The second report submitted a checklist of 290 species of flora and fauna that may be found in Aarey and highlighted alleged gaps in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the proposed car-depot on the city’s green lung. “The EIA study on the basis of which the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) sanctioned the loan has stated that there is no wildlife in Aarey,” said Jalpesh Mehta, founder, Empower Foundation.