IN AN affidavit filed before the National Green Tribunal, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has submitted that it is in the final stages of approving a boundary of up to 4 kilometres of Sanjay Gandhi National Park as an eco-sensitive zone. The affidavit filed by the MoEF before the Pune bench of the NGT on Tuesday, states that a revised proposal from the state government on declaring the area around SGNP as an eco-sensitive zone was received by them in November. The proposal was processed and approved by the MoEF which has now been forwarded it to the Ministry of Law and Justice for legal vetting before a notification is issued.
Under guidelines by the MoEF, eco-sensitive zones around Protected Areas is done to ensure prevention of ecological damage caused due to developmental activities around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Such a declaration would regulate activities in the declared zone within categories of what is prohibited, regulated and permitted in the zones. It will, however, not affect already existing construction.
The affidavit was filed in a petition filed by NGO Vanashakti seeking the declaration of Aarey as an Eco-sensitive zone after Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation sought approval to set up the depot of the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Metro project at Aarey. The affidavit says that the Aarey colony would form part of the proposed zone spread over an area of over 6110 hectares.
Activists say that proposed metro carshed depot by the MMRC will also fall within the 4km boundary and hence may have to be relocated. “The case is still being heard by the NGT but such a notification if and when it is declared will put up a lot of regulations on activities in the zone. The current proposed location of the carshed is right in the heart of Aarey which we are against cause it will damage the remaining green lung of the city,” Stalin Dayanand, director of the NGO Vanashakti said. He added that the boundary would still leave out much space on the southern tip of Aarey for the metro project without causing major ecological damage to the area. The MMRC had told the NGT previously that they would have to hack around 500 trees in Aarey to construct the metro carshed.
On the issue of declaring 1280 hectares area of Aarey colony as ‘Forest land’ to be governed under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, the ministry has told NGT that they are in the final stages of examining draft parameters along with state governments and union territories to classify an area as a forest. This will be submitted to the Supreme Court for their approval based on which a decision will be taken on Aarey, the affidavit states.