The state government on Thursday declared 328.9 hectares of land in Aarey as ‘reserve forest’. Through a primary notification, the government invoked Section 4 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, which means the government intends to declare the land as reserve forest by appointing a forest settlement officer (FSO). State Forest Minister Sanjay Rathore informed that the primary notification was approved on Thursday and an official gazette will be published in next two days.
With the issuance of preliminary notification, according to the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, the land becomes unavailable for new development. The reserved forest area encompasses 107 land parcels from Aarey, including an area of 40.46 hectare previously slotted for the zoo. The area of the reserved forest excludes the land on which the controversial car shed for the 33.5-km-long underground Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro Line 1 corridor is to come up.
Following the notification, the FSO will survey the area followed by suggestions and objections about land rights. The FSO will get 45 days to survey the area. The officer will inquire into and determine the existence, nature and extent of any rights of any person on the said land. After the suggestions and objections and hearing, the government under Section 20 of IFA, 1927, will declare the final area as forest. Once the area is declared as reserve forest, at a later stage, it can also be included in SGNP, giving it higher protection.
The original proposal was for over 600 acres or 242 hectares. Last month, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had announced that a 600-acre land parcel in the over 3,000-acre Aarey Milk Colony near Sanjay Gandhi National Park would be reserved as a forest. With the declaration, planned projects viz Metro car shed, Metro Bhavan and rehabilitation project remain in Aarey Milk colony.
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