Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has announced that the state government would designate a 600-acre parcel of land in the heart of urban Mumbai as a reserved forest.
Where is it located?
- The Aarey Milk Colony, spread over 3,162 acres, was established in 1949 as a centre for processing and marketing milk for Mumbai and adjoining areas.
- Over the last 70 years, this sprawling green area has been steadily eaten away at its edges – and 1,282 acres were acquired by the state for projects such as Film City.
- Once located on the edge of the city, it is now part of the sprawling western suburb known as Goregaon. Only 1,800-plus acres of green space, which is home to 290 species wild of flora and fauna, remain in the last green bastion of rapidly concretising Mumbai.
- The land falls under the eco-sensitive zone of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, and is home to around 10,000 individuals who live in 27 tribal hamlets.
How the state government notifies a reserve forest?
- Under Section 4 of The Indian Forest Act, 1927, the state government can “constitute any land a reserved forest” by issuing a notification in the Official Gazette, “declaring that it has been decided to constitute such land a reserved forest”, and “specifying, as nearly as possible, the situation and limits of such land”.
- Under the law, the government must also appoint a Forest Settlement Officer (FSO) “to inquire into and determine the existence, nature and extent of any rights alleged to exist in favour of any person in or over any land comprised within such limits or in or over any forest-produce, and to deal with the same”.
- The FSO will seek suggestions and objections from residents and others within 45 days of initiating the process. After taking into account the suggestions and objections, the process of turning the land into a reserved forest will be completed. Thereafter, the area will be protected from any construction.