Coming to Mumbai and not seeing a lot free space starts to become a norm when once you stay for too long. In the midst of all local train travel and small apartments, any amount of open space, cemented or not, becomes a privilege that few enjoy. That privilege however, can be extended indefinitely by the lush grounds of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park covering dominant parts of Borivali and extending up to Goregaon into the Aarey forest.
In the bright, fall morning of November 20, several like-minded, environment enthusiasts assembled at the meeting point near the Aarey Milk Colony to attend the 77th Tree Appreciation Walk organised and lead by the much experienced, Mrs. Renee Vyas. As per instructions, all of us were wearing colours of the forest in order to not attract a lot of attention whilst in the forest. Starting right on time, we all treaded the trek upwards and into the forest.
The concept behind tree walks conducted by Mrs. Vyas involve descriptions, histories, origins and anecdotes of the trees passed by, in correspondence with the list provided during the briefing session prior to the walk at the meeting point. How to identify the trees by their appearance, seasonal characteristics and their various uses in the past, and the present were also elucidated. Having been a teacher by profession in her earlier days, Mrs. Vyas exhibits an excellent fervour for what she talks about this, and her vivid knowledge captivated us all as we conquered one tree after another. The trees that were covered included Sita Ashok, Kailashpatti, Vad, Desi Badam, Tad, Imali, Kate Sawar, and Asan amongst others. With numerous people present, it was an intermingling of different stories and knowledge bases that people knew from their own childhoods and ancestries, and that formed for a very fruitful (pun unintended) morning.
We had the chance to meet Mr. Stalin Dayanand of Vanashakti and the Chief Executive Officer of Aarey Forest, Mr. Raut who spoke to us about the on goings in and with regards to Aarey forest. Issues such as encroachment for Aarey for building car sheds and the support against the same by the Mumbai citizens was requested (Save Aarey Movement). In brief, they told us about the significance of Aarey Forest in Mumbai city; to mention a few, it acts like a catchment area for the immense rains preventing excessive flooding, and it also is a buffer for the Sanjay Gandhi national park and the animals that is shelters.
We concluded the walk by reaching the pinnacle in front of the Aarey Forest VIP Guest House where we were greeted by Mr. Raut again who thanked us all for attending the walk. He talked to us about how important it is to preserve our natural resources and develop sustainably, not just for us but also for our future generations.
The tree appreciation walks are conducted numerous times in different green zones of Mumbai, they are always nice to attend, escaping from the stark Mumbai realities into the folds of nature and the calm of its clean air.
– Anubhutie Singh is a Masters student of Public Policy at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai.