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Aarey Fights back with its Citizen Warriors

Aarey Fights back with its Citizen Warriors

By Nirali Vaidya

Please note that the public hearing is supposed to be for only listening to the grievances of the public and noting them down, the tree authority members are given no chance or authority to respond, the format has not been designed to handle the question answer method.

Unfortunately the MMRDA and MMRCL is using reputed members from scientific and conservation community and voting them out with corporators and political position people who are 5:1 more than experts. So any decision when it goes to vote can easily be voted out. With 4 experts and 12-13 political party persons who have no real qualifications are in the tree authority. Sadly, even the experts have to face the public ire because of the lack of will of the BMC to face questions of the public.

Please note that the public hearing is supposed to be for only listening to the greivances of the public and noting them down, the tree authority members are given no chance or authority to respond, the format has not been designed to handle the question answer method.

Unfortunately the MMRDA and MMRCL is using reputed members from scientific and conservation community and voting them out with corporators and political position people who are 5:1 more than experts. So any decision when it goes to vote can easily be voted out. With 4 experts and 12-13 political party persons who have no real qualifications are in the tree authority. Sadly, even the experts have to face the public ire because of the lack of will of the BMC to face questions of the public.

Mumbai’s only surviving green lungs at Aarey Colony is fighting a long battle to save its pristine trees, biodiversity, and ecology from the prying eyes of greed, infrastructure, and commercialisation. The greatest and the most immediate threat to the Aarey ecosystem is the proposal by MMRCL to build a car shed for Mumbai Metro 3 project. In a public notice on 30th June, 2019, the tree authority asked the citizens to send their objections against felling of 2703 trees in Aarey colony due to the construction work of Metro 3 car shed.  It also invited the citizens for a public hearing on 8th July, 2019 to allow citizens to express their objections against the felling of the trees. Till 8th July, the tree authority received more than 115000 objections on email.

As per the provisions of the Maharashtra Act, No. XLIV of 1975, the Tree Authority was constituted in the year 1976, by the Corporation. The Tree Authority helps in regulating the felling of trees and providing for the planting of an adequate number of new trees through Garden Department.

The citizens thronged the MMRDA building auditorium in Bandra Kurla Complex in thousands to participate for the public hearing. There were professionals, teachers and students who missed their offices and schools to come for the hearing.

The indigenous tribes who have been inhabiting Aarey forest for centuries and now have been displaced due to the Metro 3 car shed too came for the public hearing. A tribal woman with a wound on her hand due to a recent leopard attack reprimanded the officials saying that “Though the leopard attacked us, we consider them our god. Forest is not just a means of our livelihood but our life itself. We cannot let the government ruin our centuries-old ancestral forest for metro car shed.”

Another tribal woman complained that MMRDA officials came to their house and started cutting their trees. “My land is left with pits and ravines, their children have to walk in deep puddles risking their safety. Who will be responsible for my wretched condition due to the construction for metro 3 car shed happening in the area?”

A concerned gentleman asked where will MMRCL get tonnes of water to wash the car shed in times of water crisis? Are they going to compromise on the groundwater level of the forest and leave the tribals and wildlife dry?

The citizens thanked the tree authority for their time and appreciated that they are willing to hear their concerns. As citizens bombarded with their questions, concerns, and fears, the tree authority chose to remain silent on maximum issues. Even after umpteen requests by the citizens pleading the officials to express their stance on the matter, all they said was just thanking the audience for their time. When the officials cannot protect themselves from the storm of the citizens’ opinions, how will they protect the trees from the diplomacy of the development? The fact that no member out of the respected five-member team spoke about environment, crisis, opportunities, or threats re-established the fact that tree authority is merely the puppet at the hands of BMC with no real powers or expertise to stop or initiate any action that is detrimental to the trees of Mumbai. This needs to change. We need to have two way communication with the officers and experts. A professor from Xavier college teaching environmental studies questioned the tree authority what type of forest was Aarey? When there was no response from them, she answered that Aarey was a deciduous forest. She further questioned to name any three trees that make up a deciduous forest. There was still no response. No wonder, on October 24, 2018, the Bombay High Court had stayed the functioning of the Tree Authority for not having any tree experts in the committee. We are now thankful to have specialists like Shashirekha ma’am on board, hope the other members learn a thing or two from them.

Points raised by citizens before Tree Authority raised by citizens against car shed:

1.            Loss of 2703 trees amount to the loss of vital ecosystem, biodiveristy, and ecology of Aarey forest.

2.            Loss of flood plains of Mithi river by the construction of car shed will result in increased floods in Mumbai.

3.            Transplantation or new plantation cannot be a substitute for deforestation. Proposal for replantation is unviable, unsustainable and unscientific. Firstly, in the scenario of the water crisis, where will tonnes of water come for plantation of new 20000 plantations. The new plantations are not capable of carbon sequestration like the fully grown trees. The survival rate of transplanted trees is marginal.

4.            First, maintain the existing thriving forest of hundreds of years then think of developing mini new urban forest.

5.            Car shed will lead to penetration of harmful chemicals into the soil thus poisoning the groundwater level & ecosystem of Aarey colony.

6.            When other viable sites are available within the city then why not shift car shed out of Aarey.

7.            Car shed will displace the indigenous tribes of Aarey from their ancestral lands and livelihood.

8.            When & how is Tree Authority making MMRCL accountable for illegal cutting of trees in Aarey inspite of the court stay order.

9.            What legal rights Tree Authority has to conduct a public hearing when it has a stay order from the court?

10.          What were MMRCL members doing on stage when this was a public hearing was by Tree Authority of India?

11.          What is the further course of action after this public hearing?

12.          Why no member representing tree authority gave their comments on the issue of car shed?

13.          What will tree authority do of more than 1 lakh signatures it received in response to 30.06.19 public notice?

14.          What has tree authority done of nearly 40000 signatures it received last year?

15.          Why did tree authority choose MMRDA auditorium where not more than 200 people can be accommodated when it receives thousands of objection letters?

16.          There needs to be Social Impact Analysis & Environment Impact Analysis before undertaking any infrastructure project.

17.          The public hearing should be made available in the form of the white paper.      

18.          There should be scientists, experts, environmentalists, tribal representatives, citizen representatives, and qualified professionals on the tree authority panel.

19.          There shouldn’t be any further public hearings whereby the productivity of citizens is stake.

20.          Unanimously all the points lead to the fact that  Mumbai Metro 3 car shed should go out of Aarey forest.

 The public hearing that took place on 8th July, 2019 was a great display of people’s power, expertise, and their determination towards conserving their environment, forest, and sovereignty

About the author:

Nirali Vaidya is a multifaceted writer, speaker, and counselor who has been an active supporter of environment & climate change.
As a brand consultant she is helping her clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies to new entrepreneurs create their brand stories, define the brand’s tone of voice, develop written communications and strategize brand’s campaigns.

The government is actively contributing to making Mumbai unliveable. They look at land not as a public asset but as a commodity to be given to greedy builders and corporates.

It is a shame that some 30,000 books of the Mantralaya library in Mumbai have been dumped into a godown in Tardeo. Perhaps it should not come as too big a surprise in an era when knowledge and scientific outlook are derided and falsehood is glorified by those in power.
It is dedicated individuals who are preserving the reading culture. Dr Anand Joshi, a member of the Asiatic library for decades, has donated Rs. One lakh to the library. I was present at a meeting of the modern book selection committee of the library yesterday when chairperson Mangala Sardeshpande made the announcement.
And there are several others including academics like Mani Kamerkar and Dr L.B. Kenny who have made donations to the library from their savings.
Similarly there are people all over who are helping in other institutions. . It is the government establishment that is failing us badly.

I used to be a member of Mantralaya’s useful library and I still retain the membership card. It used to be on the ground floor very conveniently located, opposite the information department of the government. There was another good library of the Indian Institute of Public Administration on the same floor.
These were shifted following the fire in the Mantralaya building in 2012 which caused extensive damage, killed 3 people and injured 15.
The books have been dumped elsewhere to make way for another office. This brings us to another point. The Maharashtra government and the civic body have shown a scandalous disregard for land and space.
They have given away acres and acres of government land to dubious organisations and now they are desperately short of space for their own projects. That is why we find the shameful spectacle of public space being invaded , people being robbed of access to these spaces, for Metro rail project, vehicle testing tracks and others.
And yet, no lessons have been learnt. It is disgraceful that the government wants now to sell whatever remaining land there is. People will lose the Mumbai port trust land spread over several hectares if they do not assert themselves. The government is actively contributing to making Mumbai unliveable. It seems it looks at land not as a public asset but as a commodity to be given to greedy builders and corporates shorn of any sentiment of public good.
Mantralaya bureaucrats should realise that there is valuable source material in the library which is not available on the internet.
No less shameful is the utter neglect of the Central library project. Part of the reason for this disgraceful state is the fact that few of the worthies in power care to read. I have been going also to the Council hall library and the Yashwantrao Chavan Centre library in the last several years and have seldom seen politicians there.Also severely neglected is the Mumbai Marathi Granth Sangrahalaya library in Dadar which has rare books and other source material on Marathi literature and the cultural life of Maharashtra.

1584

 People have showed their love for Thane’s trees. Have you?
Help us send as many mails to authorities, so that together we can dream about a better, greener Thane.

Mail the objections!.

#SaveThaneTrees.

 #LetMumbaiBreathe.

The Issue

The government of Maharashtra with the help of MMRDA is aplanning a road that connects Airoli to Thane but sadly there is no concrete plan in front of the citizens and 2800 plus trees are at the risk of being cut.

Draft My Petition

Dear Sir/Madam,

As per the advertisement being circulated on social media dated 2nd February, 2019 which was sanctioned by you on 27th January.  More than 2,800 trees are to be chopped by TMC and you are expecting objections and suggestions for the same.

The notice is not available on your website. Please do the same and thus extend the timeline once the notice is published online.

We noticed, there is no specific details about the number of trees to be transplanted or cut. Please release a list of trees with their species name, age, height, girth as well as which ones will be transplanted, which ones will be cut and the reason for why they cannot be saved including how many trees were tried to be saved and tentative site of transplantation.

With this, we would also be thankful if you could furnish the details of  transplantation expertise, people involved in the activity and past data of success or failure. Please see this mail as an objection from a worried citizen but also please see to it that the above details are up on the website with the details of a public hearing.

We see this act as a violation of Article 21, a Right to Clean Environment

The “Right to Life” under Article 21 means a life of dignity to live in a proper environment free from the dangers of diseases and infection. Maintenance of health, preservation of the sanitation and environment have been held to fall within the purview of Article 21 as it adversely affects the life of the citizens and it amounts to slow poisoning and reducing the life of the citizens because of the hazards created if not checked.

Thanking you,
Yours Sincerely

Two simple steps to voice your opinion and do your bit to #SaveThaneTrees
  • Step-1: Enter your name and email address below & click the “Draft My Petition” button. Your petition would be drafted and copied to the clipboard.
  • Step-2: Paste the drafted petition in your mail client and forward it using the following details –


In The News

 


The Times of India
Feb 02, 2019

 

 

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2874 trees to be affected for construction of 1 road in Thane. What can you do?

2874 trees to be affected for construction of 1 road in Thane. What can you do?

We must file our objections in large numbers by Friday 8th Feb2874 trees to be affected for construction of 1 road in Thane!!!!

We must file our objections in large numbers by Friday 8th Feb.

Objection content:

We must object on the following points

1) No details of where this road is located is mentioned. Hence there is no way to check the status at site

2) No details are published on TMC website

3) No date for Public hearing is given

Removal of 2874 is a matter of grave concern & the public must get full details and opportunity to verify the proposal.
Kindly cancel this proposal as it has not complied with the provisions of Law & the Bombay HC Order.

The removal of 2874 trees is a matter of grave concern & ought never to be allowed.
We lodge our very strong objections against such tree removal proposals

Please post in your objections to:

Thane Tree Authority,

CFC Dept, Gr fl,

Thane Municipal Corporation, Thane 400602

For any further details contact [email protected]

Or [email protected]

The notice is attached below:

World wetlands day 2019 – the opportunity to understand the true value of natural resources including wetlands

World wetlands day 2019 – the opportunity to understand the true value of natural resources including wetlands

In accounting, an economic item’s historical cost is the original nominal monetary value of that item. Historical cost accounting involves reporting assets and liabilities at their historical costs, which are not updated for changes in the items’ values.

It is like owning Wipro shares bought in 1980 .RS. 10,000/ invested in 1980 is worth 535 crores today.
But balance sheet will show the asset value at 10000 only. Whereas if the same shares were to be bought today they will be shown at 535 crores. Somebody not knowing the true worth of these shares in first case will think he is a poor man .

We have been blessed by mother nature with so many natural things which have tremendous utilty for us but are neglected as they have come free to us and we are not valuing them properly.

Wetlands play an important role in reducing the impact of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and cyclones. Wetlands act as a natural sponge, absorbing and storing excess rainfall and reducing flooding.

During the dry season, they release the water stored, delaying the onset of droughts and reducing water shortages. The frequency of natural hazards has more than doubled; the majority is climate and weather related.
But these are being destroyed as the destruction of these resources is not reflected anywhere in monetory terms.

Whereas man-made dams & bridges etc. which are miniscule creations compared to natural systems are valued as crores are being spent in making them.

For example the Metro Car shed in Aarey Forest in Mumbai is coming at the cost of thousands of trees which have a huge value but not being taken into consideration while deciding the location of these sheds.

The only solution is to put value to each & every natural resources be it trees , forest , rivers , Mangroves or wetlands and publish it yearly with moneytory value . Then only it will be clear whether so called development projects are adding to value or resulting in loss of value .

For example in Navi Mumbai the authorities wanted to destroy 80 hectares of wetlands & mangroves to make golf course which would have resulted in severe consequences for the area like floods etc.

If you think this is the right solution please share it & ask for the government authorities to implement it.

-Sunil Agrawal is A Chartered accountant , environment lover & co founder of Save Navi Mumbai Environment Group.

Lakhs of Bauhinia leaves come to Chennai as substitutes because of the plastic ban. Are forests in central india prepared for this huge demand?

Lakhs of Bauhinia leaves come to Chennai as substitutes because of the plastic ban. Are forests in central india prepared for this huge demand?

At Chennai Central last week. Hundreds of bales of Bauhinia leaves coming from central India, as substitutes because of the plastic ban. Are forests far away prepared for this huge demand? Most unlikely.

The massive jump in demand for these leaves, from a far away (wealthier) place, is undoubtedly going to impact 1000s of mature trees in central India that will be stripped. Before banning, why didn’t we think of local alternatives?

This is going to cause an ecological disaster elsewhere, and a huge lost economic opportunity within Tamil Nadu. It is how the worst of globalisation works, regardless of whether between countries or within them, across places with differing priorities and levels of prosperity.

And the fact that TN can import these leaves at such a scale most likely means we are paying more for them than locals can/will, which then means locals will probably shift to….cheap plastic. We will have simply shifted the problem elsewhere. (Sound familiar?)

Worst of all: this is the kind of anticipatory story Tamil news media/ journalists should have done months ago, and provoked discussions at least among the tiny fraction of people who care. Instead all we got were celebrations of the plastic ban. At least now, perhaps?

Source: Kaveri Express

By not wanting to sell water bottles, this Mumbai restaurant owner has a message for all of us…

By not wanting to sell water bottles, this Mumbai restaurant owner has a message for all of us…

“Today I was approached by a smart young man trying to sell me his brand of packaged water.

So I told him, unlike other restaurants, we don’t aggressively sell water.

He told me, his brand has good margins.

I told him, I don’t believe in selling water. I have an R/O plant in my restaurant and we serve filtered safe water whose initial source is the Municipal Corporation, to our patrons.

I told him that from the culture that we come from, being a Punjabi, offering water is considered a duty and a noble deed.

And that the entire packaged water trade is a collective failure of our governments.

Water comes to me at 50 Rupees per 1000 liters. Packaged water sells at 20/- per liter. After selling 2.5 Bottles of water, I am left with 997.5 Liters offree water.

And the country is bearing the cost of packaging and transporting this water. All transport runs on imported petrol and diesel. Most of the cost of packaged water is distribution. The country bleeds every time a packaged water bottle is transported.

And we are polluting the earth with plastic bottles.

Ideally the packaged water industry should die. And water should be free.

He shook my hand in a warm handshake and left.

There are some businesses that should never have got started. It is failure of the government and the fear of contaminated water that has created this industry.

And we don’t even understand the domino effect of packaged drinking water.

Offer water to people where ever possible. It is a good deed. We at our restaurant try to do it every day.”

-Vinod Chand is the founder of actualdemocracy.in and has a restaurant in Mira Road

Mail us on [email protected] if you want to get in touch with him.

Rebuttal to the wall street journal article on Mumbai Metro 3

Rebuttal to the wall street journal article on Mumbai Metro 3

A journalist spoke to me for the contact details of Indigenous Tribal people who are staying in Aarey for many generations.

Laxmi is one such Tribal woman who was illegally evicted from a Tribal Hamlet called Prajapur Pada . Under the Indian law and as per Court orders ,Tribals can not be treated as slum dwellers and shifted to Slum Rehabilitation Buildings. They should be provided proper rehabilitation.

Metro Rail Corporation LTD (MMRCL) did not acknowledge the fact that Laxmi Gaikwad is a Tribal though Laxmi has all the valid documents to prove that she is a Tribal. She is also a petitioner in the High Court in a case against Metro Rail Corporation.

Construction of Metro 3 Carshed is destroying Floodplain of Mumbai’s infamous yet important Mithi river. Environment Experts from a committee appointed by the Chief Minister of Maharashtra mentioned in a report that this construction of Carshed on the flood plain may lead to flooding in the International Airport during monsoon.

For construction of the proposed carshed at Aarey, MMRCL will also cut 3500 + trees in a forest area and destroy rich biodiversity. There are many other land options to build the Carshed for Metro 3 line. But all the suggestions of the environment experts and citizens were ignored by the MMRCL. They never wanted to have a dialogue with the Citizens of Mumbai.

The article by WSJspeaks about MMRCL planting thousands of trees but we Citizens have not seen the proof. But we have proof to show that more than 50% trees transplanted by MMRCL are already dead.

Unfortunately these aspects have not been covered in this article and hence this article is only showing one side of the story.

Would request you to at least correct information about Laxmi Gaikwad in your article. Indigenous people have been exploited across the world for centuries. It is now time for the “educated” people to help them get their rights.

Regards
Amrita Bhattacharjee

(Amrita Bhattacharjee is a citizen who has been a part of Aarey Conservation Group and saving Aarey since 2014)

(The pic in the thumbnail is from the Aarey Satyagraha on October 2, 2018. Citizens across the city have been complaining about the metros high handedness and no concern for environment to the deaf ears of the dispensation)

After ruining farmers, govt intent on destroying fishers, not to mention marine wildlife.

After ruining farmers, govt intent on destroying fishers, not to mention marine wildlife.

29th December 2018

National Fishworkers Forum Rejects Cabinet Approval
for Coastal Regulation Zone [CRZ] Notification 2018

The Government is Bent on Selling Off the coast to Corporate and Business Houses And Eliminate Small Scale Fishing Communities from the Coast

The Government of India, by giving the cabinet approval to the Coastal Regulation Zone [CRZ] Notification 2018, has turned a deaf ear to the protests and objections raised by the thousands of fishing communities, concerned organisations and individuals from all around the coast and the country. The sole purpose of the Government of India in drafting and approving the CRZ 2018 Notification has been to pave way to further sell off our coastal land and water to corporate and business houses by removing restrictions on constructions and activities detrimental to coastal natural resources.

The objections submitted by the NFF and fishing communities indicated what the country stands to lose should the CRZ 2011 notification be superseded by the draft CRZ 2018 notification. It was clearly stated that the CRZ 2011 notification continue to be diluted. The CRZ 2011 process guaranteed not only environmental protection and livelihood security, but also was a reminder of the robust democratic processes and engagements it followed in its implementation. As such it provides a comparison to the shoddy, non-consultative, anti-fishworker process of the draft CRZ 2018. The implementation of the CRZ 2011 remains far from satisfactory. While the failure to implement the CRZ 2011 rests squarely with the MoEFCC and the State Governments, the relevance of CRZ-2011 is still high. While this being the reality, the Cabinet turned a blind eye to this, went ahead and apporved the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2018.

The intentions of this government is very clear through the salient features indicated in the CRZ Notification 2018 which looks at handing over the coasts to the corporates and the tourism lobby. National Fishworkers Forum calls for nation-wide protests for total withdrawal of CRZ Notification 2018.

Narendra R Patil T Peter
Chairperson General Secretary

HC Order dt 26.10.18 reg Aarey Metro3 Car Depot

The High Court of Mumbai on 26th October 2018  gave the following order.

Click on the link to download.

HC Order dt 26.10.18 reg Aarey Metro3 Car Depot

“We have other material on record which would denote that  the metro car Depot site forms a part of Aarey milk colony and not SGNP.,” the HC judgement said

But citizens have access to papers that show, Aarey Milk Colony land has been returned to SGNP while SGNP says they have no maps to the spread of the park before and after this aera was carved out of it