Recently, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) approved the axing of 2,703 trees in the Mumbai aarey forest tree cutting. Aarey, also known as the “Last Lungs of Mumbai” is home to nearly 10 thousand tribals and more than 240 animal species including 9 leopards.
Apparently, these trees are being cut down to build a metro car shed, a theme park and ironically, a zoo!
Despite many other alternatives for the metro shed being suggested, and more than 80 thousand objections from citizens for removal of trees, why was this forest cut down without giving a second thought?
Today, when people are finding ways to stop climate change when uneven rainfall and disasters are wreaking havoc, was this the best decision?
Recently there was news of a pride of lions roaming in the city at night, this is what happens when you destroy the homes of numerous animals. The people living in the Aarey Forest area were being asked to move to the city. The Adivasis are saying that they can’t live in small “kholis” and buildings. Their livelihood is in danger. They barely make their daily incomes by selling the vegetables which grow in the forest, and now with the cutting down of the Aarey Forest, they will face many problems.
Another incident of development over deforestation was seen in The Western Ghats, where a large area covering about four districts of Karnataka lost 20000 hectares of its area in the past 17 years. The alarming rate of deforestation has caused many problems, including the drying of rivers.
The Kaveri River originating from this region which is considered the lifeline of nearly 100 million inhabitants, is drying despite receiving normal rainfall. The amount of tree coverage area lost is frightening. According to experts, development activities such as road and railway projects are to blame for this loss. The Western Ghats are very important for the entire Indian subcontinent as they influence the southwest monsoons during summer.
According to reports nearly 20 thousand hectares of forest land, which is about the size of Kolkata, was cut down between 2015-18 for developmental activities. According to data given in the parliament, a total of 20,314.12 hectares of forest land was diverted in three years 2015-2018 (till December 13, 2018), in which Telangana topped the list with 5,137.38 hectares of forest land diverted, followed by Madhya Pradesh with 4,093.38 hectares and Odisha with 3,386.67 hectares of forest area diverted. These three states together account for over 62% of the total forest land diverted during these years. According to another set of data of the MoEFCC ( Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change), since the enactment of the FC Act 1980, nearly four decades ago, a total of about 1.51 million hectares has been diverted for 27,144 projects. This means forest land equal to 10 times the size of India’s national capital has been diverted for different kinds of developmental projects.
We are not saying we don’t want development, of course, we do. In a county like India where unemployment is on a rise, development is much needed.
But at what cost?
As we all know, no one is too small to make a change, if we start today, we can still save our environment. Plant more trees, participate in strikes, recycle more, use less plastic and be more aware of the environment.