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Aarey Facts: In light of propaganda and misinformation

It becomes extremely important in the wake of the current false propaganda which is being spread to subdue the citizen’s protest against cutting 2702 trees in Aarey Forest, to bring out the facts and create mass awareness about the truth.

The following information is facts, which is already available in public domain, we have collated it from civil society groups, which comprises of biodiversity and environment experts and citizens

Myth 1: 
Only 2700 trees are cut out of 4 lakh trees in Aarey. There is no need to worry, this is only a small amount of loss 0.6% to Mumbai. 

1. Loss of clean air 
Ideal tree:human ratio is 7-8 trees per person. In Mumbai we have 1 tree between 4 persons. When this dangerous ratio requires an urgent increase in green cover loosing 2702 trees is unaffordable. 

Already 62Ha have been demanded by MMRC for carshed against 50Ha claimed by MMRCL. 36Ha for Slum rehabilitation project, 177Ha for filmcity, 1.6Ha for RTO, 2Ha for metro bhavan, 97.12Ha for zoo. Total 346.72Ha of Aarey going for development projects.

2. Socio-economic loss
The ‘socio-economic’ value of a tree is Rs 23.72 lakh a year, accordingly loosing 2702 trees would mean losing a staggering Rs. 642 crore loss a year. If we go by the average that a healthy tree can provide oxygen for 30 years, the loss would escalate to Rs 22,000 crore.

3. Loss of civilizations and cultures 
The project affects over 27 tribal hamlets & is likely to directly affect over 2,000 indigenous tribal families that have been living here since generations. They’ll be immediately affected by this, while we’ll happily buy air purifiers.

4. Loss of Mithi river floodplain 
Metro 3 Car Shed site at Aarey is floodplains of the Mithi River. Concretisation of floodplains by building car shed will increase the chances of flooding in already flood-prone Mumbai. In fact, we saw one on Wednesday, 4th September itself.

5. Loss of biological corridor for wildlife
There have been several incidents of leopard spotting reported in the area where the metro car shed is proposed. This area acts as biological corridor for the wildlife that aarey forest is nurturing.

Myth 2:
Aarey is not a forest.

  • Fact:
  • The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) by United Nations has defined forest as:
  • A land with tree crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of more than 10% and area of more than 0.5 hectare.
  • The trees should be able to reach a minimum height of 5 m at maturity in situ. 
  • Natural forests are forests composed mainly of indigenous trees not deliberately planted. 
  • Aarey fulfills all the above criteria for being entitled to be called a forest.
  • There are several trees which have height of more than 50 feet.
  • Aarey falls under the category of natural forest where there are indigenous trees like double coconut (found in the Western Ghats and north-east India) Mango, Peepul, Jamun, Mahua, Ghost tree, Toddy Palm, Red Silk Cotton, Flame of the forest, Kachnar, Umbar, Banyan, Ber, Ain, Bhend, Haldu, Kalamb, Behda, Teak, Tamarind, Kusum, Amaltash/Indian Laburnum, Karanj, Shisham or Rosewood, Shirish, Gunda, Khirni.

If we define forest as a complex ecosystem consisting mainly of trees that buffer the earth and support a myriad of life-forms then Aarey is a forest with mammalian species like leopard, spotted deer, rusty-spotted cat, jungle cat, palm civet, small Indian civet, Indian mongoose, jackal, wild boar, Indian Palm Squirrel, Bonnet Macaque, Rhesus Macaque, common Langur, flying fox and common Pipistrelle (Bats). Besides, its rich biodiversity comprises of:77 different avifauna (birdlife) species

90 different types of spiders
5 species of Tarantula
6 species of scorpions
86 species of butterflies – Plain tiger, striped tiger, common crow, chocolate pansy, common mormon to name a few
6 species of venomous snakes
Caeciliaus, rare amphibian discovered at the interiors of Aarey colony
10 rarest species of birds found in Aarey –
Indian Roller
Indian Blackbird
Grey Hornbill
Chestnut trail Starlings
Rosy Starlings
Glossy Ibis
Loten’s Sunbird
Spotted Owlets
Orange headed ground thrush

Myth 3:
Development cannot take place without cutting trees

All the developed economies with advanced infrastructure like US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, UK has a better tree:human ratio. Canada 8,953 trees per person, Australia 3,266 trees per person, United States 716 trees per person, France 182 trees per person whereas India has just 28 trees per person. 

Myth 4:
Citizens protesting against cutting 2702 trees in Aarey are against metro.

The citizens who are protesting the cutting down of trees in Aarey are not against metro but against building a car shed for metro in Aarey forest when other alternative sites are available. Unanimously, they all have voiced to encourage a better public transport system in Mumbai which includes Metro. Citizens protesting to save trees require a cleaner and greener metro for their city. Be it the expert committee set up by the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis or the corporators of Mumbai who opposed the change of land use at Aarey, the Urban Development Department headed by the Chief Minister has overruled all of it.

Myth 5:
Metro 3 project would reduce carbon dioxide emissions on a larger scale than the reduction in emissions due to the cutting of trees for the project. The 2,800 trees that are affected by  Metro 3 project reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 61 metric tonnes annually, while Metro 3 would reduce emissions by 9907 metric tonnes every year.

1. MMRCL calculated only how much emissions Metro 3 can prevent but did not give the figures of emissions that the operation of Metro 3 will release every day.  A study by the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar metro railway said the service prevents daily emissions of 22.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). But the operation releases 75.6 tonnes of CO2 every day because the service consumes electricity for traction, lighting, air-conditioning, escalators and other facilities. Hence, this metro line currently produces (and not reduce) a net increase of 52.9 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every day.
2. Comparing the capacity for carbon sequestration of metro 3 with that of the trees is ostentatious blasphemy. If MMRCL can measure carbon sequestration of a tree why didn’t it measure the oxygen that each tree releases?  Besides, the measurable CO2 sequestration, there are a lot of other benefits that trees provide that metro cannot provide: 

Can metro 3 produce oxygen while performing CO2 sequestration like trees? 
Can metro 3 absorb odors and pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark?
Can Metro 3  cool the city,  provide shading to our homes and streets, break up urban heat and release water like trees?
Can metro 3 reduce runoff like trees by breaking rainfall, allowing the water to flow down the trunk and into the earth below the tree which prevents storm water from carrying pollutants to the ocean?
Can metro 3 act like a sponge that filters the rainwater naturally and uses it to recharge groundwater supplies like trees?
Can metro 3 slow runoff and hold soil in place while preventing soil erosion like trees?
Can metro 3 nurture and nourish the rich biodiversity like trees?

2. Comparing the capacity for carbon sequestration of metro 3 with that of the trees is ostentatious blasphemy. If MMRCL can measure carbon sequestration of a tree why didn’t it measure the oxygen that each tree releases?  Besides, the measurable CO2 sequestration, there are a lot of other benefits that trees provide that metro cannot provide: 

Myth 6:
Metro will plant 100 times more trees than each tree cut. So there will be no harm to the environment.
1. Structurally complex forest like aarey that has taken centuries to be built cannot be substituted with new plantations. The mature trees of a forest existing in unison with their other indigenous colleagues have deep exotic root architectures that can sequester carbon (and other nutrients, plus water) more effectively than stand-alone trees which will be planted as a part of the compensatory plantation.  Besides, the different sizes and shapes of the leaves in a forest ecosystem absorb different types of pollutants whose cumulative effect is seen in a cleaner, filtered, and cooler air in the area around the forest. To expect saplings to do the job of a full-grown tree is like expecting a newborn baby to take care of a family’s expense just like the earning member. A sapling requires water, nutrients, and care before it becomes mature enough to perform the role of climate mitigation like its elderly counterparts. 
2. BMC and MMRC have a very poor history of tree transplantation drives. The BMC’s tree authority permitted the felling of 25,018 trees between 2010 and 2016, revealed a right-to-information (RTI) response. However, it failed to provide records for the number of trees replanted or transplanted in their stead over seven years.
MMRC has not been able to save most of the trees affected by the metro rail. The Bombay high court-appointed committee remarked that the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) has not carried out the transplantation of trees affected by the Metro-3 project efficiently, that many transplanted trees did not show signs of sprouting, while the metro rail body has also delayed geo-tagging the affected trees, as recommended by the committee. It slammed MMRC for not using modern machines to transplant trees. It noted that more than 50 per cent of the trees did not survive. 

Myth 7:
Shifting the proposed Metro car shed from Aarey Milk Colony to Kanjurmarg was not viable as it would cost the public exchequer around Rs 5,000 crore.  
Metro-6 line, running from Lokhandwala Complex to Vikhroli, and the underground Metro-3 line are intersecting at SEEPZ and the car shed for Metro-6 is being built on the same land at Kanjurmarg.  This shows there is no need for laying an additional 10-km line which is supposed to cost additional as per MMRC. There is enough land for both car sheds as the size of the plot is nearly 141 hectares.

Myth 8:
MMRCL’s other objection was that since the land is marshy, it will have to incur additional cost to make it usable. 
A barrage was constructed in 2009 on the side bordering the creek to prevent tidal waters from flooding the land. The plot is now dry and rocky.

Myth 9:
Kanjurmarg land acquisition takes time as the plot was currently in litigation.
If the land is under litigation,  work on Metro-6 car shed couldn’t have been undertaken whereas the work on Metro 6 is progressing.

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