In the midst of all the protests and chain messages going through WhatsApp, it becomes crucial to clarify the myths and realities of what is happening in Aarey Colony currently.
Over the weekend, 1500 plus trees were cut down between heavy protests - Section 144 had to be imposed to make sure there was no hindrance to the project. Many activists and protesters were arrested or detained for showing up near the site to stop the felling of trees.
Many people in the light of these events are now talking about "NGO Mafia's" and "Anti - Development Elements" who are trying to stop progress in the country because they are desh drohis or something along those lines.
But, here are some facts to clear out everyone's confusion about the issue.
Myth: Aarey Is Not Actually A Forest
Many people who are in support of cutting down trees in the believe that Aarey is not a forest, but a civilized area with commercial agriculture - hence the name - Aarey Milk Colony.
But, the Food and Agriculture Organization or FAO by the United Nations has defined a forest as - A land with tree crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of more than 10% and area of more than 0.5 hectares, trees with a minimum height of 5 m at maturity, and should be composed mainly of indigenous trees not planted by inhabitants. Which qualifies Aarey as a forest very clearly.
Myth: Only 2700 Trees Are Cut Out Of The 4 Lakh Trees In Aarey, Which Is A Very Small Amount
Even though the number seems small, the impact this will cause is four-fold -
- The loss of clean air: The International Tree Foundation stated that there is a tree-human ratio that needs to be balanced for each person to have clean air to breathe. The current ratio should be around 8 trees per person, in Mumbai alone the tree - human ratio is 1:4, which means that for 4 people there is only one tree. To cut down 2700 trees only further decreases the ratio which is a threat to every person in Mumbai.
- Trouble For Civilization and Culture In The Forest: The project affects over 27 tribal settlements and is likely to directly affect over 2,000 indigenous tribal families that have been living there since birth. The most damage is to these settlers and we cannot ignore them on the presumption that they can just move elsewhere.
- A Loss of Mithi River Floodplain: Building a foundation on the floodplain will only increase the chances of flooding in Mumbai which is the last need for the city. The Metro Car Shed is to be built directly on the floodplain of the Mithi River, which means the chances for excess flooding increases.
- Danger To The Wildlife and People: Aarey is a green corridor for the wildlife that settles within it. A green corridor is a habitat connecting wildlife populations separated by human activities or structures. Many species of wildlife like leopards, Rusty-spotted cats, Sambar deers, Alexandrine Parakeets, and Red-wattled Lapwings have been spotted in the forest on various occasions. All of which fall under the endangered species according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature.) These species will either pass away from unfortunate mishaps or rehabilitate in urban areas causing a threat to locals.
Myth: Development Cannot Take Place Without Cutting Trees
All the developed economies with much more advanced infrastructure like the US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, the UK have a better tree: human ratio. Canada has 8,953 trees per person, Australia has 3,266 trees per person, the United States has 716 trees per person, and France has 182 trees per person. India has just 28 trees per person, cutting down more trees under the "need" for development just cuts down the number even further. Other countries have figured out the formula for development without disturbing that ratio which is something we can focus on.
Myth: Citizens/NGO's Who Protest Against The Felling Are Against The Metro Project
Those who are protesting are not asking for the Car Shed construction to be stopped altogether - they're simply asking for it to be built elsewhere, in a place that maintains the sanctity of the forest, and still brings development(like Kanjurmarg.) The point is that citizens and activists alike just want a secure, greener future that isn't ruined by the materialistic wants of the nation or the people. The intention is to allow future generations to have use for the Metro Car shed, which is the entire purpose of building it in the first place.
Hopefully, this clears the air off all the misconceptions regarding the Metro project and we also hope that the government hears our concerns over the issue.