Aarey Colony land declared as a forest last year was formally handed over to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park authorities on Monday. The newly appointed chief executive officer of Aarey Colony formally handed over a total 712 acres to the SGNP director. In 2019, the state government had handed over 100 acres for a zoo. This is now part of the Aarey forest. An additional 90 acres in possession of the SGNP is reserved for relief and rehabilitation of tribals and slum dwellers.
The long overdue handover is a significant victory for the citizens’ movement in the city. The Save Aarey Movement, which began in 2015 to protest the cutting of trees for the Metro Line 3 car shed, saw the Uddhav Thackeray government formally declare 800 acres as a forest. However, the uncertainty over the shifting of the metro car shed continues.
The SGNP will now be responsible for conservation and protection of the new forest land.
G Mallikarjun, director SGNP, said the state revenue and forest department has sanctioned the post of a forester and four forest guards for the additional forest area which made the takeover possible.
While 800 acres were declared as forest last year, five acres will be returned to the dairy development department as it was earlier earmarked for a police station. “The five acres will be returned in due course before the final notification declaring the area as forest is issued,” he said. The government had been keen to hand over the land to SGNP as frequent fires in Aarey “were maligning the government’s image”.