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Aarey Milk Colony, spread over 1,259 hectares of land, is an extension of Sanjay Gandhi National Park. In 1949, the land we know as Aarey was given to the Dairy Development Board of Maharashtra to shift the cattle sheds from the city to Aarey. Since then this area has been known as Aarey Milk Colony. Aarey has 27 tribal hamlets; in terms of flora and fauna, it has leopards and numerous species of birds, animals, insects, butterflies, snakes, herbs, shrubs and trees (which number more than 4 Lakh 80 thousand).

In November 2014 , morning walkers, cyclists and other regular visitors to Aarey Milk Colony found notices put up, announcing that 2298 trees in Aarey would be felled for construction of the carshed for Metro3. Citizens came together to protest against this mass felling of trees. Thus was born the Save Aarey Movement.

In December 2014 angry citizens for the first time gathered in Aarey Picnic Point area to protest against this unnecessary destruction of the city's ecology. 1200 + citizens came together again in February 2015, creating a human chain along Marine Drive. Post this event, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra announced appointment of an Expert Committee to explore other options for location of the Metro3 carshed .

The Expert Committee had 6 members; four Bureaucrats and two environmental experts from IIT and NEERI. Both the environmentalists put a dissenting note in the Committee's report, holding that Aarey is an ecologically sensitive area and rich in biodiversity. The proposed carshed location is the floodplain of the Mithi River, and construction in this area can lead to flooding in Andheri. Hence the carshed location should be shifted out of Aarey, they said .The other options for the carshed location suggested by the expert members were Kanjurmarg and Backbay in Colaba.

The Detailed Project Report prepared in 2011 for the Metro 3 Line also mentions three other options (along with the option of 33 ha land in Aarey) for the Metro 3 Carshed location: the ground in Bandra Kurla Complex, 26 Ha of land in Kalina, the Mahalaxmi Race Course. Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation ( MMRCL) always claims that the 33 ha land area in Aarey is the only suitable location for the Metro 3 Carshed.

In 2015 the NGO, Vanashakti, along with citizens, filed a petition in National Green Tribunal (NGT) praying that Aarey be declared a forest and an Eco-Sensitive Zone. NGT on 19th August 2015, ordered status quo in Aarey pending final decision on the case. MMRCL, in August 2017 started dumping debris in the Metro 3 Carshed area in Aarey, along with excavation and mud filling activities in the area. This was in contempt of Court orders and was highlighted at the NGT. On 14th May 2018, NGT again ordered against any dumping of debris, land reclamation and Tree Felling in Aarey pending final decision in the case. But MMRCL continues to violate court orders. They have cordoned off more area in Aarey on the opposite side of the carshed area and have started land reclamation. What initially started as destruction of 33 ha of forest land is now leading to destruction of a much bigger area. Citizens lodged complaints in Aarey Police Station against these violations of court orders. MMRCL has also evicted Adivasis from Prajapur Pada in Aarey to SRA Buildings. This is in violation with Tribal Rights. Adivasis have filed a petition in Mumbai High Court.

On 20th September 2018 Judges from NGT's Principal Bench decided that this matter of declaring Aarey a Forests does not come under NGT's jurisdiction and NGT directed the petitioners to withdraw application and approach the right Authorities. This has happened after 3 and 1/2 years long proceedings in National Green Tribunal.

Through an RTI in 2017, Vanashakti found a letter written by the Divisional Manager of Sanjay Gandhi National Park( SGNP). This letter indicates that Aarey Milk Colony was of a much larger area earlier, and that 2076 ha of land from Aarey Milk Colony was Transferred to SGNP in 1969. But the forest department claims that they do not have any land records related to Aarey Milk Colony.

The forest department, in 2015, had submitted a draft proposal to the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) to declare Aarey Milk Colony as an Eco Sensitive Zone. MMRCL moved an application with the MOEF and got 165 ha of land (1.65 sq km) from Aarey denotified from the Eco Sensitive Zone. The MOEF denotified an area of 1.65 sq km from the ESZ in December 2016. This decision has been challenged by Vanashakti in NGT through a different petition.

Already, a large part of Aarey Forest has been lost to different projects and construction activities. Citizens fear that with the entry of the Metro 3 carshed, better described as a railway service centre, the rest of this forest, spreading over 1259 ha, will be lost to construction activities for ever.

Mumbai City is already sinking because of the destruction of its water bodies, wetlands and mangroves. Loss of Forest area and destruction of the floodplain of the Mithi River in Aarey will lead to further destruction of the city and flooding in more new areas in Mumbai. Lakes , supplying drinking water to Mumbai are also located in Forest Areas. Vihar lake on the border of SGNP and Aarey.

The air quality of Mumbai will be seriously hit if 4000 full grown trees are removed from its last remaining green space,the Aarey forests. .

A Movement that started with the news of felling of 2298 trees has brought out more shocking details. MMRCL floated a tender document for felling of 3384 trees in Aarey Milk Colony in 2017. And number of trees that are in line for sacrifice is still increasing. Tribals have lost their homes and livelihood. Floodplain of Mithi River has been damaged and this city will finally lose 1.65 sq km of forest areas to construction activities if this Carshed is not shifted out of Aarey. Facts finding team of Citizens have also found letters that speak about Government granting 3 FSI on 33 ha (82.5 acres) of Aarey land. A design layout prepared by MMRCL for the Carshed area also has marked an area on 33 ha land for realestate prooject.

Citizens of Mumbai needs to decide what is more important for them. A peaceful and happy life in a place requires, Fresh Air, Good supply of Drinking water , accessible open spaces and flood free roads .

In a Costal city like Mumbai, when the entire world is suffering from the consequences of Global Warming a place like Aarey becomes extremely crucial for survival of the city.

9

There was a interactive panel discussion in Mumbai WTC on the 29th of January 2015 organized by World Trade Centre (WTC) and All India Association of Industries (AIAI) in collaboration with the Indo-France Chamber of Commerce and Industries (IFCCI). It was to discuss ‘Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making’.

Dignitaries on the stage included Mr. Sanjay Sethi (IAS) (Additional Metropolitan Commissioner-I, MMRDA), Ms. Laura Prasad (Secretary General, IFCCI), Dr. Laveesh Bhandari (Founder and Chief Economist, Indicus Analytics Pvt. Ltd.), Mr. Vijay Kalantri (President, AIAI and Vice Chairman, MVIRDC WTC), Mr. Shankar Aggarwal (IAS, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development Government of India), Mr. Dilip Shekdar (Chief Architect, Naya Raipur Development Authority), Mr. Ravi Kant Malhan (Director, Head Business Development:  Smart Cities and Special Projects, Schneider Electric India), Capt. Somesh Batra (Vice Chairman, MVIRDC WTC) and  Mr. Abhishek Lodha (Managing Director, Lodha Group).

A journalist, Shruti Ravindran who had attended it, tweeted a photo of a shocking quote from a brochure 'Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making' released during this event.

Smart cities that exclude the poor
Smart cities that exclude the poor

 

The quote in the above photo says:

...There are only two ways to keep people out of any space - prices and policing. In other words, the prices will automatically be higher in such cities - the notion that they will be low cost is flawed. Even if possible from a cost provision perspective, they cannot be low cost from a demand supply perspective.

Even with high prices, the conventional laws in India will not enable us to exclude millions of poor Indians from enjoying the privileges of such great infrastructure. Hence the police will need to physically exclude people from such cities, and they will need a different set of laws from those operating in the rest of India for them to be able to do so. Creating special enclaves is the only method of doing so. And therefore GIFT is an SEZ and so will each of these 100 smart cities have to be.

(excerpt from an article by Laveesh Bhandari, Founder and Chief Economist at Indicus Analytics Pvt Ltd)

So let me get this right. The government will be used to empty land to build smart cities in the name of developing the country. It will be called "inclusive development". And the smart cities built on this land will be for the rich - by design. And we are talking of a hundred cities, displacing god knows how many people. The police of the land will be used "on the tax payer's money" (as these hotshots like to call it) to keep the poor out of these cities using laws OTHER THAN INDIAN LAWS.

Am I the only one being reminded of Arundhati Roy's infamous quote that earned her the anger of the oh-so-innocent middle classes? Here it is, if you don't remember. And she said this in 2007.

We have a growing middle class, being reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrializing western countries which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labour to feed this process, we have to colonize ourselves, our own nether parts. We’ve begun to eat our own limbs. The greed that is being generated (and marketed as a value interchangeable with nationalism) can only be sated by grabbing land, water and resources from the vulnerable. What we’re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in Independent India. The secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country.

~ Arundhati Roy

This could be considered the impractical fantasy of rich men (albeit very rich men and sponsors of the ruling party behind this government), but the brochure also carries an introductory message from Shankar Aggarwal, IAS, Union Ministry of Urban Development, GOVERNMENT OF INDIA, not to mention him being personally present there and meeting journalists on the sidelines to announce the Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February.

Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February says Aggarwal - Moneylife
Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February says Aggarwal - Moneylife

Here are some relevant excerpts from the brochure including the message from Shankar Aggarwal, the program schedule of the event, including names of speakers, the profile of the author Dr. Laveesh Bhandari, the article itself, and another article on GIFT, which is referenced in this article as a model. Excerpts from Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making

Given the opaque manner in which this government operates, as well as dramatic undermining of protections of local interests and environment through ordinances, such views should be a cause of alarm for citizens, if the much heralded development is going to actually be displacement on a massive scale, disenfranchisement of local populations and their explicit exclusion from the "growth story" while the rich use the country's power to get land for their shangri-las, use the country's resources "24/7" (can this ever be promised to those who will be displaced to create these "enclaves"?) and use the country's police force to protect what will essentially be elite facilities barred to the common masses through special laws created to protect the elite.

I imagine, the elites will also only be paying for their actual residences and the cost of creating these havens for them will also have to be borne by the country.

Is this development or colonization of India by the rich? The Gujarat model is all set to exploit India as well. All we need are new signboards, "Poor citizens and dogs not allowed"

On day 2 of Modi on the job, his cabinet has passed the ordinance for the Polavaram project. It is waiting for Pranab Mukherjee's signature.

Apart from 136 villages, 211 hamlets and 7 mandals being transferred from Telangana to Andhra, as per the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan study conducted by Agricultural Finance Corporation Limited, on behalf of the irrigation department, the backwaters of Indira Sagar dam, once completed, will submerge 2,929.07 hectares of reserve forest, spreading across mostly Khammam (2,820.61 hectares), followed by 70.71 hectares in West Godavari and 37.75 acres in East Godavari. Another 293.08 hectares of reserve forest would have to be acquired for project and canal. Thus, a total of 3,223 hectares of reserve forest would disappear totally under the project.

That will teach the anti-national animals to not vote for Modi in the next election.

The National Board of Wildlife (headed by the Prime Minister) had cleared the wildlife aspect of Polavaram (Indira Sagar) project in 2006 after considering various aspects of submergence of the Papikondalu Wildlife Sanctuary (187 hectares) in a meeting attended by BJP's favorite enemy A. Raja. Clearly the "developmental harvest" will be reaped at the cost of the tribals and wildlife he sold out anyway.

The project, proposes to irrigate 232,000 acres in Krishna, Godavari (east and west) and Vishakhapatnam districts (in other words, less than 1.5 times the 1,57,406 acre area that will get submerged - or in other words, there are industrial uses for most of the water), and generate about 960 MW electricity. Water from this project will also feed the proposed Vizag-Kakinada Industrial Corridor; two Special Economic Zones, the Apparel Park, Pharma City, probably a Naval Establishment, and perhaps an atomic research station. The project's stated aims are to irrigate 54 mandals in 4 districts - Krishna, Vishakapatnam, West and East Godavari; to sustainably increase agricultural production; to assure water supply for drinking in Vishakhapatnam and towns en route; to link the Godavari and Krishna rivers, thus reducing pressure on the Krishna waters; and also facilitate recreation, pisciculture, etc.

Over 276 tribal villages in the agency areas of East and West Godavari districts and Khammam district will be submerged. Based on the 2001 census of these areas, it is estimated that 237,000 people will be displaced. About 53 per cent of those displaced will be adivasis, two-thirds of them being Koyas and Konda Reddis. More than 300 hectares of prime forest land, comprising the Papikondalu Wildlife Sanctuary, will also be inundated. The likely agricultural loss is also phenomenal; in the submergence area, cotton is grown in over 10,000 acres, each providing an average of 150 person-days of work. Paddy is grown in 10,000 acres, providing an additional 75 person-days of work each. Tobacco is grown in 6,000 acres and gives 250 person-days of work per acre. And losses in other livelihoods will worsen this situation further. The levels of displacement of lives and livelihoods, besides destruction of environment from this project will far exceed the impact of the Sardar Sarovar dam over the Narmada river. What is more important, a lot many more tribal households stand to be displaced in this project when compared to the latter.

Prof T Shivaji Rao commented on the India Together post this article refers to extensively saying:

The Polavaram Dam issue is not properly understood by the general public in either Andhra pradesh, Orissa, Chattisgarh or CWC in Delhi with the result that the Courts at the state or central level are not scientifically briefed about the complete environmental implications of the project. Firstly,the project was strongly opposed in May 1983 by Dr.K.L.Rao,the top most expert in irrigation Engineering on the ground that the spill-way is highly under-designed and wrongly sited and it will collapse one day or the other.

Secondly,it is not clear if Orissa and Chattisgarh states are opposing the dam on the ground that their original agreement was based on assumption of spill-way design for a Maximum Flood Discharge of 36 lakhs cusecs with a return period of 500-years which is not in tune with the CWC Design standards of 1000-year return period which means raising the peak flood to 49.5 lakh cusecs. Further,the Environmental Impact Assessment, Risk Analysis, Disaster Management including the Rehabilitation and Resettlement reports are based on the old design [2004] criteria of 36 lakh cusecs peak flood while the revised project design based on peak flood of 49.5 lakh cusecs [September,2006] does not take into consideration the need to make a corresponding revision of EIA, RADM and R&R packages. Under the inter-state Agreement,it is the CWC which has to design the project and the determine the back-water curve that is crucial for identifying the areas to be submerged due to extreme floods.

We shoud not put the cart before the horse. In one of the cinemas "Vaddate Dabbu",N.T.Rama Rao as hero instructs his engineers to construct the top floor of the building first so that the basement can be taken up for construction later. Today the politicians and the bureaucrats seem to follow this advise in total that means even without the Central Water Commission taking the primary step in calculating the maximum peak flood for spillway design as per the norms prescribed by the Central Government and the norms followed in other countries and also without the directions of the Central Water Commission on the configuration of the backwater curve that presence the scenarios of submersion in the upper states of Orissa and Chttisgarh and Andhra Pradesh no organization can make a proper assessment of the environmental impact, risk analysis, disaster management plan including rehabilitation and resettlement schemes. But in the present case it appears the reverse process has come into operation and the non-governmental organizations and the Ministries of Environment and forests at the state and central levels seem to be helpless spectators while implementing the rules under the Environmental Protection Act and Forest Conservation Acts.

Unfortunately when the Bachawat Tribunal was giving the award 1982 on Godavari water the peak flood at that time was of a far lesser magnitude and consequently the peak flood was raised to the expected peak level of 36lakh cusecs. Consequently the Bachawat Tribunal accepted the interstate agreement for a peak flood of 36 lakhs cusecs and put a condition that the clearance for the polavaram project was considered for the dam height fixed at an elevation of 150ft. and that the submersion of villages due to back water curve in the upper reaches of the river in Orissa and Chattisgarh states must be limited to +150ft only. Unfortunately in August 1986 the Godavari river experienced a peak flood discharge of 36 lakhs cusecs and hence this unexpected event of extreme magnitude leads to a corresponding increase in revising the peak spillway flood discharge to be about one and half times the historically recorded flood and consequently the state Government has been directed by the central Water Commission in August 2006 to revise the peak flood to 49.5lakh cusecs.

Consequently the Orissa and Chattisgarh state governments are arguing that in view of this revised extreme flood the inundation in Chattisgarh and Orissa will be far higher than originally contemplated at the time of interstate agreement made in 1980. Hence the environmental clearances and forest clearances obtained on the basis of a peak flood of 36 lakhs cusecs does not hold good because more extensive areas will be inundated due to the peak flood of 49.5 lakh cusecs as revised in Aug-Sep 2006. Hence the non-governmental organizations, the state Governments and the courts must take into consideration this new aspect which throws all the earlier reports on Polavaram dam out of gear and hence fresh reports must be prepared to confirm to the rule of law for ensuring a safe environment for the dam and the people who are likely to be affected both on the upstream side and downstream side. Prof.T.Shivaji Rao, Director,Centre for Environmental Studies, GITAM Engineering College,

These people will be moved to cheaply provided accommodation that usually never reaches all those who are displaced and a 40,000 rupee alternative cannot compare with the loss of your own home. The tribals live off the land and forests and have no skills for economic survival in other environments. On top of losing their homes and getting some half hearted compensation that can never compete with the quality of life they have, they will also have to figure out how to survive in an environment they don't have the skills for.

As usual, the person deciding on how their life should unfold is some guy sitting on a stack of notes elsewhere, who will not have to face a moment's discomfort over their devastation.

Once more, development hit tribals will sacrifice for the "greater good" of those who already have more than them. Us, elitist leeches will never tire of sucking the life out of them.