Mumbai’s lone bee keeper speaks up to save Aarey
Apiarist Malad resident Johnson Jacob, 55, who has been running the only bee farm at Aarey Colony and in Mumbai for the past 17 years, requested the government to reconsider felling of more than 2,600 trees and building the Metro Bhavan at Aarey.
Amid the fight to save Aarey Colony, the city’s lone beekeeper wrote to the state on Friday, claiming the proposed construction activities will also put the livelihood of local residents at risk.
Apiarist Malad resident Johnson Jacob, 55, who has been running the only bee farm at Aarey Colony and in Mumbai for the past 17 years, requested the government to reconsider felling of more than 2,600 trees and building the Metro Bhavan at Aarey as deforestation and dust pollution would reduce the pollination process, hampering the bee habitat.
With the bee farm in close proximity to the car depot construction site, Jacob hopes to provide a sustainable habitat for the Indian honeybee and prolong its lifespan at his farm. The quarter of an acre farm comprises 15 bee boxes (colonies), with more than 10,000 bees in each. Over 17 years, he has sold over 100 bee boxes and close to 1,200kg honey across housing colonies in Mumbai and different parts of the state.
Bees use pollen for food, and nectar and a little bit of water to make honey. The season is from May to June every year. During this time, 15 colonies produce 25kg honey. “With minimal tree felling, excavation work, and loss of green cover, including flowering plants, near the car shed area over the past two years, the pollination process has witnessed a gradual decline leading to a drop in honey production,” said Jacob. “If large-scale development is carried out, dust and vehicular pollution combined with loss of green cover will reduce the number of bees.”
Jacob said the Archesia flower, which is found in large numbers in Aarey, helps bees acquire nectar and pollen for the hive. “The quality of the honey depends on the kinds of flowers,” he said.
While one box (colony) is sold for ₹4,500, individual frames with honeycombs are sold for ₹300. A kg of honey costs ₹400.
Sandeep Athalye and his family, who built a butterfly garden at Aarey, which is home to 6,000 trees and 60 species of butterflies, 1km from the car depot site, raised concerns about development creeping into Aarey. “Construction using cement affects butterflies directly. Not just these species, but dust will affect the entire ecology of Aarey,” said Athalye, who built the garden in memory of his father, Vinay Athalye, who passed away in 2015.