After multiple fire incidents being reported from the grasslands of Aarey forest, environmental activists and local residents have written to the state government and BMC demanding to restart a fire station at the Aarey forest that was made redundant ten years ago.
According to environmentalists and local residents, more than 40 fire incidents have been reported from the grasslands, since February. Environmentalists also claimed that after the lockdown was imposed incidents of forest fires had intensified.
Mumbai-based environment conservation group – Vanashakti has written to the state government urging that a local fire station should be immediately started inside the forest area. Director of Vanashakti – Stalin Dayanand has said that earlier there used to be a fire station inside the forest and the state government had called the shutdown of the fire station ten years ago.
“As there is no nearby fire station it takes a lot of time for the fire brigade to reach the spot and the uneven topography also becomes an added challenge,” Stalin told this newspaper.
In the letter, Vanashakti demanded that there should be two small water tankers along with extended hoses to be able to spray water in forest areas. The environmentalists also demanded that the Mumbai Fire Brigade should direct the forest department so that fire trenches could be made inside the forest that would prevent the future outbreak of fires.
Stalin has also claimed that setting the grasslands on fire could be an attempt of encroachers and tribals to establish their own settlements.
“After the state government announced that parts of Aarey will be marked as reserved forest, encroachers and tribals are burning grasslands to set up agricultural fields, so they can claim alternate housing or compensation from the government,” Stalin said.
“In the past one year, encroachers have set up agricultural fields by destroying grasslands over there, now that the government has announced the area to be acknowledged as reserved forest, they will be demanding alternate housing and compensation in return,” he added.
Mumbai Fire Brigade officials didn’t want to comment on the issue that why a fire station was shut down ten years back, however, they maintained that a new fire station could be initiated only if the municipal corporation gives a go-ahead.