THE 90 acres of land earmarked for the rehabilitation of slum residents and tribals from hamlets of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) are not part of the 825 acres that will be marked as reserve forest at Aarey Colony, said SGNP officials.
On the inclusion of 90 acres in the reserve forest area, SGNP officials said the rehabilitation would go ahead as planned.
“According to the plan, 43 acres will be used to rehabilitate close to 2,000 tribal families from SGNP in 300 sq ft houses with an open courtyard and terrace. Tribals have asked for a house with a courtyard and not high-rises. Slum residents will be resettled in 300 sq ft apartments on the remaining area,” said Sunil Limaye, additional principal conservator of forest, wildlife, western region.
In February, the state government handed over the plot to Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) to those who had encroached upon the national park. As many as 28,951 illegal structures are inside as well as around the periphery of SGNP covering 2,780 acres. The Bombay High Court in 2009 ordered the removal of encroachment from park, followed by rehabilitation of encroachers.
Officials said the state government notification declaring over 800 acres in Aarey Colony as reserve forest is likely to come by the end of the month. Land starting near the northern boundary of Aarey Colony to the proposed 90-acre zoo and going further south will be declared “reserve forest”.
Officials from SGNP said no tribal padas were included in the selected area, and that the notification by the state government would provide more clarity. Hillocks and area contiguous to the park, where leopard movement has been captured is included in the proposal, they added.
The officials further said the area excluded land on which the controversial car shed for the 33.5-km underground Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro Line 1 corridor is to come up.
According to the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, once this area is declared as reserve forest, the land becomes unavailable for development. Once the area is declared as reserve forest, at a later stage, it can also be included in SGNP, giving it higher protection.
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