About Aarey Milk Colony
Aarey Milk Colony is situated in Goregaon East, a western suburb of Mumbai, and is located off the Western Express Highway. It is at a distance 30 km north to Mumbai city. It covers a total area of 3160 acres of land which comprises of gardens, a nursery, lakes, an observation pavilion, picnic facilities, and milk plants. 16,000 cattle are reared on 1,287 hectares of land, and 32 cattle farms. It is one of the last remaining green patches of the city.
Aarey is famous among nature enthusiasts for being the green lungs of the city—a biotope that shelters new-to-science scorpions and tarantulas, besides being a treasure trove of birds, butterflies, amphibians and the leopard.
Aarey was once a part of the deciduous stretch of forests, now restricted to the adjacent Sanjay Gandhi National Park and hillocks. With the coming of the Aarey dairy co-operative, the thickness of the forests was broken up to create open ecosystems of grasslands, scrubs, marshes and water bodies, giving refuge to an interesting assemblage of species.
A total of 77 species of birds, 34 species of wildflowers, 86 species of butterflies, 13 species of amphibians, 46 species of reptiles, several of these being listed under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act are found here. What’s more, 16 species of mammals, including the elusive but ornamental and therefore, magnificent leopard, have been documented in Aarey.
From the hundreds of micro habitats that are there in Aarey, tiny creatures rule, thrive and survive. Interestingly, species thought to have been extinct have been rediscovered from Aarey.
Objective of Save Aarey initiative
This Garden of Eden has been earmarked by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) for constructing a metro car shed over an area of 28 hectares. This will lead to uprooting of 2,298 trees. According to MMRDA, 2,044 of these trees could be transplanted, but the rest of the 254 trees would have to be cut down. And we all know the fate of most transplanted trees. It’s a farce and has so far not succeeded.
The metro yard project, if cleared, will just be the beginning of the end for Aarey’s biodiversity. Once the car shed is completed, the result will be an extensive alteration of the landscape and the next follow-up project is also in the pipeline. It will be the creation of a meaningless zoo and a flyover. Also, the road widening of fifty feet or more will mean cutting down of 1000 trees or more on both sides.
This is the right time to remind the motivated campaigners of Mumbai to remember the aftermath of creation of the Royal Palms, meant to be a harmless golf ground. But now a miniature city stands in its place, between the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and the Aarey Milk Colony.
Moreover, Aarey is situated right next to the banks of the Mithi River and its catchment area. Destruction of Aarey could lead to increased downstream flooding in Mithi due to the disturbance of the water retention regime provided by Aarey. The place also acts as a buffer to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park where leopards still prowl in the dark. If this buffer zone is taken away, can give rise to negative interactions between humans and wildlife.
And more recently, the BMC’s draft development plan for 2034 has raised hackles by proposing fresh development and a business hub in the Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon and a steep rise in the FSI.
In effect, there are three major projects that could drastically alter Aarey area, and destroy its natural beauty and unique value to the citizens.
- The first and foremost of these dangers comes from a car shed planned on 70 acres of land that is adjacent to the Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road. This verdant plot is earmarked for parking and servicing metro coaches of Line 3 Metro, which will ply between SEEPZ and Colaba. Almost 2,000 trees are slated to be chopped for this purpose.
- The second big threat is that from the Goregaon-Mulund Link Road, which is being planned as an additional east-west connector. The Goregaon segment proposes to widen the Aarey Road by 50 feet and more. Once again, a thousand trees will be cut on both sides of the road.
- The third threat, though not imminent, is from a proposal to extend the Byculla Zoo on a 200-acre site within Aarey.
And that’s why ‘Save Aarey’!
The Save Aarey initiative is not against development but unplanned development which will benefit only a few vested interests and not the citizens of Mumbai.
There is a need to create enough breathing space for these residents in the form of open, green, recreational areas. Aarey can be developed as a world-class recreational area, which can attain international acclaim. We can have hiking and bike trails, picnic areas, nature trails, botanical gardens, museums, cafés and more.
Instead of discussing Mumbai’s worst global open space ratios for any urban area in the world, it is time that we get acting on the issue. The time has come to exert pressure on the politicians and authorities and tell them to look into feasible alternatives.
And hence, ‘Save Aarey’!