The State government has sanctioned a commercial zone inside the Aarey Milk Colony, one of the last green lungs left in Mumbai.
Amid demands from environmental activists that the entire 1,280 hectares of Aarey Colony be declared a protected forest, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis-led urban development (UD) department, which sanctioned the land use plan for Aarey on Friday, has approved a commercial zone inside the colony. A land parcel, previously designated to be used for “electric distribution and transmission”, has now been redesignated and placed in the “commercial zone”.
In 2016, when the Mumbai’s new Development Plan (DP) draft was first placed before the residents, the entire colony area had been shown as a no development zone (NDZ). But with Mumbai’s new development control regulations permitting development of large NDZs, environmentalists and open space enthusiasts had raised objections against it.
Battleground for govt and environmentalists
Aarey Colony is the last few remaining green zones home to flora and fauna that is peculiar and exclusive to Mumbai. It has been a battleground between environmentalists, who want to ensure its preservation, and the government, which is keen on ensuring that the sprawling land mass can be utilised for some sort of public benefit. By earmarking the colony as predominantly a “green” area and withdrawing a buildable reservation proposed on a privately controlled land, the government, in some way, has worked to reassure residents that it wants to retain the predominant character of the green lung.
Later, with Shiv Sena youth president Aditya Thackeray joining the ‘Save Aarey’ campaign, the Sena-controlled Mumbai municipality — after hearing suggestions and objections from the general public — had proposed in 2017 that the colony be predominantly marked as a “green zone”. But the recommendation of designating that “electric distribution and transmission area” as a commercial zone had been made in the same report.
On Friday, the state government approved the rezoning proposal, while clearing the land use plan and reservations inside Aarey under the new DP.
The new development control regulations have incentivised developments in commercial zone. Despite Sena’s opposition, Fadnavis had earlier deleted a 33-acre portion from the erstwhile NDZ for the construction of a car shed for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro line. The government has, however, clarified that no commercial development would be undertaken on this 33-acre land.
While a land sprawl controlled by a construction industry giant in the colony, which had earlier been shown as reserved for the car shed, has now been included in the green zone, parts of the colony have been reserved for rehabilitation and resettlement of tribal settlements and slum encroachment in the colony, and oustees of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which would result in more construction inside the green zone. On the basis of existing land use, the government has also reserved a plot (in the colony) for a film studio. Mumbai’s film city — Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagari — is in the colony.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines