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Developer blamed for Aarey Colony fire

Thursday, December 06, 2018
By Raju Vernekar

Environmentalists say the fire was allegedly not accidental but by all means intentional, caused by a developer having various housing complexes in and around Dindoshi

While vegetation spread over nearly 60 acres of land (across 4 km area) at Habalpada, near IT Park in Aarey Colony in Goregaon East,was gutted in a massive fire on Monday evening, environmentalists have accused a developer of igniting a fire.

According to Dayanand Stalin, President of an NGO 'Vanshakti', the land is part of a reserve forest. A portion (nearly 500 acres) of the land was handed over to a trust and subsequently it was handed over to a developer in the eighties. However due to stringent regulations, the developer’s plan to construct a housing complex on the plot was stalled. The Oshiwara river originates from this plot. Under the circumstances how the plot was given to a private party is a mysterious question.

Thick weeds and tall trees surround the plot and the developer’s men have cut the trees unauthorisedly during night time. This is not the first time that a fire has erupted here. During every May and December, the forest area in Dindoshi is on fire. This land has been constantly neglected and the authorities have refused to intervene.

The handing over of the forested mountain land reeks of a conspiracy. Even though the matter was reported to the Mumbai suburban district collector twice it was of no avail. The fire allegedly was not accidental fire but by all means intentional, caused by a developer having various housing complex in and around Dindoshi.

In a related development, Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam, in a letter to Mumbai Police Commissioner, has asked for an inquiry into the cause of the fire within a week and punish those responsible. “I will also speak to Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, in this regard,” he added.

Meanwhile, commenting on the issue, Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said that the matter will be inquired by the state home department because the land basically belonged to a private trust and some portion of it was acquired by state forest department a few years ago. However, in view of such incidents the forest staff has been asked to step up the vigil, he added.

According to Sunish Subramanian Kunju, Founder, Plant and Animal Welfare Society, there is no doubt that the fire was man-made. Because there is no buffer zone in Aarey Colony forest. In the core area, there is a lot of human interference. There is a lot of dry grass in the forest. Even a small matchstick could lead to a fire. As such it must have teams to supervise these type of incidents.

According to local residents the activities of excavating a portion of a hillock goes on clandestinely by those wanting to reclaim the land and use it for building construction. There has been virtually no supervision of the forest department, they added.

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