Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Wednesday decided to declare 600 acres of land in Aarey Milk Colony near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai as a reserve forest and conserve it. The decision comes after a long movement by environmentalists to save Aarey forest. Also Read - Maharashtra Govt to Withdraw Cases Against Aarey Protesters in One-month Time

The decision was taken during a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who said, the forest would be the first example of a “huge jungle” being conserved at the centre of a megapolis, an official statement said.

Constructions of all types, roads, slums, Adivasi pockets and government facilities will be excluded from the first phase of the initiative, the statement said. Further, the slums within the area will be rehabilitated immediately.

“Approximately 600 acres of open land being declared as forest while all rights of Adivasi communities will stand protected. Rehabilitation of slums within the area would be expedited. This would be phase 1 for which the Forest Dept will move a proposal,” Aaditya Thackeray tweeted after the decision.

The news came as a ray of hope for environmentalists and green activists who had been relentlessly working towards conservation of Aarey forest. The move has been welcomed by Mumbaikars as well:

Aaditya Thackeray further said the Forest and Environment Department has decided to apply Section 4 of IFA to approximately 600 acres in Aarey land near SGNP. This implies that it will be declared a reserve forest after a hearing for suggestion/ objections.