The second largest green cover in Mumbai needs your help. It’ll soon be cleared to make way for a metro car shed and other commercial activities. Here’s how you can play your part in saving the green cover of Aarey Milk Colony by – just sending a rakhi!
“I am a Neem tree from Aarey Milk Colony, about to lose my life, my home and my faith in humanity. A few days ago I heard about the metro shed development project and the proposed widening of the Aarey Road that threatens to destroy Aarey – the last of Mumbai’s dwindling forest cover. “
If a tree could speak today, this is what it would probably say. As per BMC Tree authority survey, around 2,298 trees are hindering the construction of a proposed car shed for Metro 3 in Mumbai. These trees are to be transplanted and some of them need to be cut.
Some portion of the land will also be used for a man-made theme park and other activities like housing, retail, educational campuses, etc.
Aarey Colony is spread over 1,619 verdant hectares. Out of the total area, 378 hectares are already occupied by a guest house, several dairy units, squatters, tribal padas (hamlets), Central Poultry Development Organization, private cattle sheds and film shooting sets. On the remaining area, BMC’s draft Development Plan proposes new development on 1,009 hectares of Aarey land, leaving behind only 232 hectares of green cover.
A group of concerned citizens came together to oppose this decision and started a movement called Save Aarey. Prashant Kalipurayath, a professional at an advertising company TBWA, along with three other team members, has launched an interesting initiative called Rakhis From Aarey to take the campaign to the next level and engage more influential personalities in their movement.
The team has given a voice to the trees by writing letters on their behalf and sending them to prominent personalities and decision makers along with an eco-friendly rakhi.
“Only 2 percent of Mumbai’s land is covered with green spaces. Also, Aarey colony is the second largest green cover in Mumbai. We have to save it. Trees are helpless and they depend on other people for support. Rakhis are a symbol of protection and have a very deep emotional connect with Indians. So we thought of sending rakhis to people who can protect them,” he says.
The interesting initiative comprises of a letter written from the point of view of a tree and what it would want to say. The letter is accompanied by an eco-friendly rakhi made from discarded material of the trees.
The campaign, which is just about three weeks old now, has sent rakhis to over 2,000 people which include influential personalities like Narendra Modi, Amitabh Bachhan, Ranbir Kapoor, Vishal Dadlani, etc.
The campaign aims at reaching out to as many people as it can in order to make a substantial impact in saving the trees at Aarey.
“After people receive rakhis, they can wear it as a sign of protest and can also send more rakhis to other people to enlist their support,” says Kalipurayath.
Recently, Ranbir Kapoor and Vishal Dadlani came out in support of the campaign and accepted the rakhi on behalf of the trees.
Aarey colony’s green cover would soon be lost if action isn’t taken on time.
“The main idea of sending these rakhis is to spread awareness. Once people receive a rakhi they ask questions like what is this for, which tree is this, why does it need help, etc. It is not just for information but for engaging more people in the awareness drive,” Kalipurayath explains.
The Rakhis From Aarey team has also hanged some audio letters on the trees where people can listen to their plight and what they have to say. They have also launched a website where anyone can type in an address and the team will send a rakhi to the mentioned address with a letter.
The impact of the interesting initiative is being seen in many interesting ways. The campaign picked up instantly in Mumbai and thousands of people came out in support of the trees.
“Initially convincing people about the idea was a challenge, especially the prominent people in the society. Also, reaching them is a challenge. Many a times their office or production house receives a letter and rakhi but it is never delivered to them. Unless they personally receive it, the whole campaign will not go very far,” says Kalipurayath.
The team has partnered with the already existing Save Aarey group, which has been fighting for the cause for quite some time now.
Speaking for TBWA India, CCO Parixit Bhattacharya says, “The journey of Rakhis From Aarey as an initiative from members of Save Aarey and us to a full fledged, high decibel citizens’ movement has been quite rewarding. The Govt. putting a hold on the Development Plan 2034 is a great outcome. The movement will be on until the citizens are assured that Aarey’s safe for good.”
The team believes that it is not just the Aarey trees that can benefit from these rakhis. The idea can be used as a peaceful form of protest for many other issues that exist in the society today.
“If you want to be part of the movement to save the trees, all you have to do is send a rakhi,” concludes Kalipurayath.