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Mumbai -NGT halts razing of hills around city’s national park 

The cutting of Dindoshi and Yeoor hills, in Goregaon and Thane, respectively , has been stayed in an interim order by the Pune bench of the National Green Tribunal.The ruling comes two months after NGO Vanashakti sought that they be declared no-development zones as they lie on the periphery of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, the city’s lungs, and rampant construction is hurting the fragile ecology as also the adivasi residents.

Vanashakti has been directed to serve a notice of the order to the chief conservator of forests and the environment secretary.

The forest department has been asked to reply by February 10 indicating the status of the land and the regulations under the relevant notification such as eco-sensitive area ecologically sensitive zone surrounding the national park.

The NGO application said the Dindoshi hills lie between SGNP and Aarey Colony, another green belt, and the forest department has erroneously not notified it as an eco-sensitive zone. A plea is pending before NGT to declare Aarey as an eco-sensitive zone. Rampant cuttingrazing of hills, alteration of landscape has left the hills in an extremely fragile state, said the NGO.“The area has been witnessing steady exploitation in the form of levelling of land, hill cutting, obstruction of water to the trees resulting in gradual decay of the once lush green trees for the past five years. And recently there is prima facie evidence of hill cuttingrazing for construction of buildings,“ said the application.

A few years ago, the denu dation of the Dindoshi hills resulted in a major landslide that badly affected several bungalows, prompting the BMC to ask IIT-Bombay to suggest remedial measures.Vanashakti director D Stalin said if the cutting of the hills is not stopped, there is a likelihood of major landslides affecting the large colony of residential buildings that have sprung up.



Local residents pointed out that any plant growth on the hills is systematically burnt down to ensure the hills look barren. About Yeoor hills, the NGO said despite a single entry point manned by forest guards, dumpers -used for illegal excavation of reserved forest land -move freely in and out. “Not only are huge tracts of forest land being diverted for non-forestry ac tivities and construction, but land used by resident tribals for decades are no longer av ailable to them as their pas sage is obstructed by a huge wall erected right in their backyard.

Survey no 17, for instance, was previously used as grazing land for catt le and a place for the adivasi women to attend nature’s call. Their access stands blocked now. Traditional rights, including the right of access, have been infringed.Rampant felling of trees is evident also,“ said the application.

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