Times of India: Mumbai: Monday, February 20, 2017.
Aarey Colony is a part of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), according to a letter unearthed from the park records under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The letter dated July 22, 1980, written by L P Palimar, divisional manager of Borivli National Park, to the regional manager of Forest Development Corporation Ltd, Nagpur, refers to 2076.073 hectares of revenue land transferred from Aarey Milk Scheme to the Borivli National Park. The letter is with regard to excluding 576 hectares of Aarey Colony from the notification declaring the area as a national park and classifying it as a recreational area.
The NGO Vanashakti, which has sought declaration of Aarey Colony as a forest and eco-sensitive zone, has submitted this in an affidavit to the National Green Tribunal (Pune Bench). The forest department had said that Aarey Colony measuring 1,280 hectares has not been recognized and notified and/or identified and demarcated as a forest land in any record. However, Vanashakti, in its affidavit, said the reports and documents obtained under RTI Act do not substantiate this claim.
The letter mentions that the land needs to be notified as "reserved" "protected" forest to give the forest department more legal rights and to protect the land from encroachment, to date it has not been notified as a forest. Forest department sources said that under the Forest Conservation Act, it is a forest since the revenue land has been transferred to the forest department. Also in an earlier case, the Supreme Court ruled that if any government record mentions any land as forest, it is to be treated as forest.
The NGT, in its last hearing, granted four weeks to the forest department to submit records of the over 3,700 hectares of forest land identified in Mumbai in 1997.
The letter says, "During 1969, 20 sqkm of area, which are revenue lands, not notified under any section of the Indian Forest Act, were transferred from the Greater Bombay Milk Scheme at Aarey Colony to this division." It refers to the existence of Bacon Factory, MAFCO, the residential quarters of MSEB, BMC, receiving station prior to the "taking over of the area of Krishnagari Upvan, Borivali from Aarey Milk Scheme. It is not possible to remove these establishments from the existing sites. Hence all these establishments now constitute the parts of recreational zone."