September 9, 2019 1:51:50 am
Taking ahead the protest against the felling and transplantation of 2,646 trees in Aarey for the Metro 3 car shed project, a Mumbai-based NGO has written to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and environment ministry among others, submitting proof of the presence of leopards in Aarey and sought action for saving the big cat’s habitat. The IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.
In a letter to the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), IUCN, National Board of Wildlife and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA, which is funding the Metro 3 project), the NGO has highlighted that Aarey in Goregaon (East), 3 km away from Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), is also home to nine leopards.
The letter has asked to “investigate, validate and intervene that JICA has intentions to harm and endanger the leopards of Aarey and destroy their natural habitat in Aarey forest and that they have funded for destruction of the natural habitat by cutting trees (2,646) for creation of commercial maintenance car shed for Mumbai Metro 3, despite various other options”.
Leopards are listed as schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Schedule I classifies species as being either extirpated, endangered, threatened, or a special concern. The letter also states that the issue (construction of car shed in Aarey) can become an international issue as the leopard falls under the Red List of IUCN under the vulnerable category.
Last month, the BMC’s Tree Authority cleared the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation’s (MMRCL) proposal to fell and transplant 2,646 trees in Aarey for the Metro 3 car shed project. The activists associated with the Aarey Conservation Group have staged protests at the site across the week. Following the approval, Zoru Bathena, an activist filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court challenging the civic body’s decision. While the petition opposed the felling of trees in Aarey, government officials said according to a 2017 study conducted by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the lifetime carbon sequestration by around 2,700 trees to be cut in Aarey could be achieved in just seven days of Metro 3 operations. Metro 3 will reduce pollution by 2.5 lakh metric tonnes every year as per UNFCCC estimates, the study adds.
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