The lovely region of Aarey Forest is located in the suburb of Mumbai in India. It consists of more than five lakh trees combining the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. It is supposedly the lungs of Mumbai and one of its own kind green zone in the city, rather the last remaining one for a population of 13 million.The forest cover amounts to 1200 hectares of land with 28 small and big hamlets of the adivasis (Scheduled Tribes) residing in this green zone. In 1977, Film City was built on a part of Aarey forest, and soon came a zoo on another part of the Aarey forest, and now, as the project for the construction of a new car shed for the upcoming Metro network in Mumbai is on the way, a lot of trees are being cut to give room for the said metro project. The fact of the matter is that there ample of land available near Kanjurmarg and Bandra Kurla Complex areas, but the government was adamant to have the car shed amidst the green forest cover.
Protesters are organising demonstrations and pressing the government in different ways with demands that the cutting of the trees must be stopped. Kaash Foundation has played an important and strong role in supporting this resistance; we left no stone unturned when it came to taking a stand for the city and saving the environment.
We began from attending the Public Debate and Hearing that was conducted on 8th July, 2019 at MMRDA premises in Bandra . The meeting was convened by the BMC and members of the MMRCL Company. It lacked thorough conviction from the corridors of authority and power, and was more of an eye wash with the kind of evasive responses that were given, and perhaps, the reason behind this could be the huge crowd that wasn’t expected and foreseen by them. Dr. Avkash Jadhav, that day helped many realise that the authorities cannot suppress the voices of Mumbai! He emphasised on the policy of inclusive development. The public hearing was attended by almost 50 volunteers of the Kaash Foundation.
The next step taken was a letter to an English adventurer Bear Grylls and the Hon. Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe along with the JICA, the Company which was funding this project. This helped to bring in a lot of support towards the cause of saving the forest cover in Aarey, and also against the axing of the 2700 trees. It definitely gave the “Save Aarey Movement” a much needed impetus! Soon after this, the Supreme Court put a stay on the cutting of the trees. Who will own the loss? was a huge question mark.
A small group of students from St. Xavier’s College conducted a survey to find out whether the public and the citizens were aware of the gravity of the situation, and the results of the survey were an eye opener! It was found, that most of the people living within the forest area had no idea that they were about to be uprooted from their very own homes!
Kaash Foundation and Dr. Avkash Jadhav made an urgent demand of a SIT – Special Investigation Team to probe the ground reality, to check on the violation of the civil liberties and to squash the wrongful implications of the activists. The axing of the trees has stopped as of now and it can be regarded as the partial victory to Save our Vasundhara (Mother nature).
Kaash Foundation’s active involvement in this huge movement is truly commendable, and Dr. Avkash Jadhav’s personal involvements make us realise that it is not just an issue for the city, but is a concern for each and every one of us.