Forest department yet to prove Aarey not part of SGNP
The forest department recently sought more time from the Bombay high court (HC) to submit proof of its claim that Aarey Milk Colony is not part of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).
While the court granted the state time till November, petitioners Vanashakti, an environment group which has said that Aarey is a forest, will be filing an appeal to expedite the hearing in the case. This comes after the tree authority decided to fell over 2,185 trees at the city’s green lung for the construction of a car-shed for the Metro-3 (Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ) project.
Vanashakti and Thane-based activist Rajiv Datta sought protection of the entire Aarey as an integral part of SGNP by claiming that 2,076.073 hectares (ha) area of it was categorised as “unclassed forest in the SGNP”. Vanashakti said it has documents to show the area was transferred to the forest department in 1969, and government records of the transfer are missing. On June 20, the chief justice NM Jamdar directed the forest department to submit original land revenue records for the entire 103.68 square kilometres of SGNP, notified under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. An August 27 order by the chief justice and justice Bharati Dangre read, “We find that the respondents [forest department] have not complied with the previous order.” The matter has been scheduled for November 20 and department is required to submit all documents two days before the hearing.
Stalin D, director, Vanashakti, said, “There is resistance to start a probe into this scam as to how documents showing transfer of over 2076 ha of land goes missing from every government record.”
Dinesh Singh, assistant conservator of forest, SGNP, representing the forest department said he was not present for the last hearing as the department was busy with demolition of an ashram at Tungareshwar. “Since I was not present, we asked for more time. There is no missing land from SGNP, and Aarey is not part of the national park.”
Singh said he has documents to prove this dating back to 1946 wherein two different land acquisition processes took place by the state – one for Bombay Milk Scheme and the other for SGNP. “We are not sure what motive the petitioners have but we will prove our stand in court.”