Mumbai: Activists Smell Conspiracy As Level III Fire Engulfs 4 Km-Wide Area In Aarey Forest
On December 3, at around 6:30 pm, a massive fire broke out in the forest in Aarey colony, Goregaon, Mumbai. The fire which was considered a ‘level 1’ in the beginning soon became a ‘level 3’ fire. Aarey forest is considered the only breathing green space in an otherwise concrete Mumbai city.
The fire started in an open plot near an IT Park along the General Arun Kumar Vaidya Marg in the western suburb. Towards the night, the wind from the hills helped the fire spread to the nearby residential areas. Reportedly, the fire spread in a 4 km-wide area.
“Until 7.30 pm, the blaze remained confined to trees, dry leaves etc. within a distance of 3-4 km from the spot of fire. However, in the night it started moving towards the residential localities,” an official said, reported NDTV.
Officials were prepared to evacuate the 7000 tribals living in the forest area. These tribals have protected the forest for long. A total of 10 firefighting engines, seven JTs (jumbo tankers), three Quick Response Vehicles were pressed into service. “Apart from fire personnel, forest officers and Mumbai police personnel also helped in putting out flames,” he said.
Fire, a conspiracy
According to Mumbai fire brigade, the fire, that spread over 4 km-wide area was due to dry leaves and twigs. Although no human casualty has been reported, a massive damage to the forest has been estimated.
Aarey fire broke out at 6 pm yesterday,was doused by 8:48 am. About 10 fire engines,7 jumbo tankers were put to work but due to no access road,firemen used bushes to beat out the fire.This fire was to destroy our forest. #TheyBurntAareyDown @deespeak @VishalDadlani @RandeepHooda pic.twitter.com/UvITDf0oLT
— Ketan Nardhani (@ketan83) December 4, 2018
Aarey forest, which houses over 33 hectares of thick urban forest and a huge diversity of rare insects, reptiles and mammals including wild leopards, is the only green lung that the concrete financial capital of our country is left with. It also is the home to more than 7000 indigenous tribal people who have been living here in 27 aboriginal Warli tribal hamlets.
Recently, the Maharashtra government has denotified the forest as an eco-sensitive zone to allow the construction for a Mumbai metro car shed. Although the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) is yet to get permission for felling of trees in the forest, many environmentalists and activists think that the fire was an easy excuse.
Environmentalist Zoru Bhatena says, “Every year, the forest area at Dindoshi is set on fire. This land has been constantly and consciously neglected and the authorities have refused to intervene. It looks like a conspiracy to hand over the forest to developers. If they allow the place to grow into a thick forest, they will automatically be denied permission to cut trees. It is a systematic ploy,” reported Down To Earth.
Social media was abuzz after the fire as people claimed that it was a conspiracy to clear the land for the metro project. It must be remembered that recently, the MMRCL contested that environmentalists are spreading misinformation by claiming that Aarey is a forest area.
The Logical Indian Take
Conspiracy or not, it is important to understand that there should be at least six trees for every one person on earth in an ideal situation. In Mumbai, there is only one tree for four people. With over five lakh trees, Aarey serves as a natural air purifier for the city. It is important to preserve the green patch for the future. The fire might be an accident, but the government should have enough preventive and vigilance measures in place to quickly contain an emergency like this.