Another fight to save Mumbai’s green lung, Aarey Milk Colony

Updated on Jun 26, 2017 09:24 AM IST
Mumbai city news: In the last seven decades, a police training area, film production and teaching centres, cemeteries and a public housing complex have been built in Aarey Milk Colony
Tribals protest against SRA scheme in Mumbai’s Aarey Milk Colony.(HT FILE)
Tribals protest against SRA scheme in Mumbai’s Aarey Milk Colony.(HT FILE)
Hindustan Times | ByManoj R Nair, Mumbai

Last week, residents of tribal villages inside Mumbai’s Aarey Milk Colony protested against a government survey of the area. It is not clear why the study is being done. Aarey Milk Colony officials have said that they want to find out the number of people – living in tribal villages and slum settlements — in the area. But members of the tribal communities are convinced that the study is being done to create Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) schemes in the area.

In SRA schemes, slum dwellers surrender their homes to builders who provide free flats in housing complexes built on land cleared of slums. The builders make their profit by selling larger flats at market rates.

Mumbai’s beleaguered green lung, Aarey Milk Colony, is a 3,160-acre estate with grasslands, cattle sheds, tribal villages (which predate the milk production centre) and slums. There are also tree-covered hills, lakes, gardens and species of birds, animals and insects - reasons why the area needs to be protected.

The milk production centre was created out of forest land in 1949 but is under threat from construction. The Aarey Conservation Group, which is campaigning to preserve the area’s natural landscape, reports that large slices of the estate have been carved out and handed over to government and private agencies.

Over the last seven decades, a police training area, film production and teaching centres, cemeteries and a public housing complex have been built inside the boundaries of the colony. It is estimated that a third of the estate is now under other government agencies other than the dairy department. One plot in the southern end has been pared off to build a car depot for the Colaba-SEEPZ underground Metro line. A large private housing and recreation complex has come up in the northern end. There are plans for more such projects, including a zoo. The draft development plan 2034 for Mumbai has more ambitious ideas for the area, including a business centre.

The expanding slums are another threat. When the Aarey Milk Colony was created, the government dairy department did not build housing for thousands of labourers who were brought in to cultivate cattle fodder and maintain the dairies. “Existing tabelas (cattle sheds) were converted into officers’ quarters and the labourers were allowed to set up homes wherever they wanted,” said Biju Augustine of the Aarey Conservation Group.

The informal housing built by the dairy workers has now grown into large slums. Aarey Milk Colony’s chief executive officer, Nathu Rathod, said that there are no exact figures on the number of slums. Non-government agencies estimate there are 30,000 slum homes that cover around a tenth of Aarey’s area. “The slums have grown rapidly after 1985, especially after government made rules about the protecting the housing rights of those who lived in slums before a particular cut-off date,” said Augustine.

The 27 adivasi padas, or tribal villages, have between 50 and 350 families each. The residents, mostly Warlis, are the indigenous people of the area and they do not want to live in SRA flats. They said they are protected by the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. “It should be taken into account that adivasis stay in hamlets and cultivate land,” said Amrita Bhattacharjee, a member of the Aarey Conservation Group.

Rathod said that the survey was being done after orders from Maharashtra’s chief minister. “There was a baithak (meeting) with the chief minister and he said that people living inside Aarey should be given civic amenities. Aarey Milk Colony is an Eco-Sensitive Zone and has to be protected,” said Rathod. “A survey has to be conducted to identify tribal and non-tribal residents, but the tribals want the tribal development department to do the survey.”

Environment groups said that there are court orders that prohibit SRA projects in Aarey. So, what is the survey for? “It cannot be said that the survey is for SRA. It is not clear,” said Rathod.

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • 6 police officers awarded with medals for their swift investigation

    These 6 Karnataka cops have been awarded by centre for excellence in service

    Six police officers from Karnataka have bagged medals this year as the union home ministry on Friday announced awards nationwide for over 150 police personnel for setting an inspiring example and answering the call to duty. Karnataka Lokayukta SP K Lakshmi Ganesh - who played a major role in unearthing illegal migrant documents nexus in the state -is among those who have won accolades.

  • Searches were conducted at various premises of Yellow Tune Technologies Private Limited between August 8-10

    ED freezes assets worth 370 cr of Bengaluru firm

    The Enforcement Directorate on Friday said it has conducted searches at various premises of a private company in Bengaluru and froze assets worth Rs 370 crore. According to ED, a large amount of funds to the tune of Rs 370 crore were deposited by 23 entities including accused NBFCs and their fintech companies into the INR wallets of Yellow Tune Technologies held with crypto exchange Flipvolt Technologies Private Limited. The company's promoters went untraceable.

  • Dr K Sudhakar (ANI)

    Karnataka Minister urges people to take pledge for organ donation

    India], August 13 (ANI): Karnataka Health Minister K Sudhakar on Friday urged people to take a pledge for organ donation on the occasion of World Organ Donation Day. "During this Azadi Ki Amrit Mahotsav, pledge to donate your organs which could be "Amrit" for someone's life," Sudhakar said while addressing a press conference. The Health Minister recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Mann Ki Baat address, in which he appealed to people to donate organs.

  • Dr Manmohan Singh Chauhan, director, NDRI, Karnal,said that the NDRI was all set to provide all kinds of support to the NDDB. Over the increasing number of cases of lumpy skin disease in the state, he urged the farmers not to panic as sufficient vaccine is available to protect animals from the disease. (HT File Photo)

    NDDB to work with NDRI to take research to farmers

    The National Dairy Development Board has decided to work with the National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal, to take the research to the farmers, said chairman of the NDDB, Meenesh Shah. “We have decided to work jointly and take the research work further so that farmers can avail the benefits,” said Shah speaking at a programme organised to mark the silver jubilee celebrations of the Model Dairy Plant of the NDRI.

  • Students of Muslim community during a flag-hoisting ceremony organised as a part of 'Har Ghar Tiranga' campaign at Bathindi in Jammu on Friday. (ANI)

    ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ drive paves its way to remote areas in J&K

    As a part of 'Har Ghar Tiranga' campaign, hoisting a Tricolour has become a movement in J&K with several remote areas actively participating in the campaign. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called upon all citizens to turn the 'Har Ghar Tiranga' campaign into a mass movement to commemorate the 75th anniversary of India's independence. According to a J&K government spokesperson, from Kathua to Kupwara, people of J&K, particularly children, are organising rallies.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Saturday, August 13, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now