MUMBAI: Development of the city’s last remaining green cover, Aarey Milk Colony, is likely to be the latest bone of contention between the ruling partners in Maharashtra - the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena. While the Sena insists that the 3,012 acre green belt should be developed as a theme park, the Bharatiya Janata Party is determined to preserve it.
The Sena-dominated Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in its Development Plan, has made clear its intention to use the land to construct a theme park and also small recreational parks.
According to the plan, the facility will also house a zoo of international standards, educational institutions, housing projects and transport facilities such as Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS).
Sena minister Ravindra Waikar is spearheading the campaign and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is being forced to accept the party’s plans. “It is in the people’s interests,” Waikar said.
On the other hand, senior BJP minister Eknath Khadse, who is in-charge of the Revenue Department, emphasised that his department will not allow any activity that takes the sheen off Aarey Milk Colony.
“Around 418 acres of land in the colony has already been encroached by the slum dwellers and a high-profile developer. There are lakes, birds and rare trees in this locality. I suggested launching of boating in the lake and opposed felling of trees. We will allow it (tree felling) only for public purposes such as expansion of Metro network or to build roads,” Khadse said.
Environment activists too have opposed the development plan. “There is no provision to shift the tribals who are staying there since ages. Already, they face difficulties with basic amenities like toilets, water, medical care and electricity. It seems the BMC is doing it deliberately so that the tribals will leave the area,” said Rishi Aggarwal, an environmental activist.
The Aarey Milk Colony is always a centre of attention for its geographical location. The colony, which connects the city’s Western and Eastern suburbs, is close to the Film City.
The then Environment Minister Ganesh Naik in 2006 had mooted a proposal to sell the colony to private companies and raise funds to repay the state’s debt.
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