The Film City plans a complete revamp of facilities, including a film museum, amusement park, studios, production resources and hotels among others.

AFTER THE Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL), armed with an order of the Bombay High Court, hacked over 2,000 trees in Aarey Colony last month to make way for a Metro car shed, more trees may face the axe on 51 acres of forested land abutting the colony.

At a meeting of the state forest department in February, it was decided that with the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) failing to acquire 51 acres “wrongly” handed over to the Film City in 1969, the latter can develop the land if it receives the approval from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

Documents obtained under the RTI Act by Mumbai-based NGO Vanashakti reveal that the state government had handed over 215 acres of forest land to the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) in 1969. According to the forest department, MIDC handed over the land to the Film City — managed by a state-run corporation — in 1977, but in place of 215 acres, it transferred 245 acres.

However, it was finally decided that only 194 acres would be handed over to the Film City and not 245 acres. SGNP — which was to get these 51 acres from the forest department — has been asking the Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagari, popularly known as the Film City, to return the land since 1977, but to no avail.

Anwar Ahmed, Chief Conservator and Director of SGNP, said, “There have been many instances of communication (letters), where we (SGNP) have asked Film City to hand over the land. However, it has refused to do so. In a meeting held earlier this year, it was decided that the Film City can develop the land only after approval from the Union environment ministry.”

The Film City, which is in the process of expanding its infrastructure, has included these 51 acres in its master plan. “We have not illegally acquired any land. The Film City does not have any area belonging to SGNP under its jurisdiction. The land was handed over to us and it is maintained as it was given, no new construction has taken place. Both (SGNP and Film City) are part of the state government and an amicable solution is needed,” said Chandrakant Kolekar, Deputy Engineer, Film City.

Forest officials, however, said that in 1977, incorrect survey had led to excess transfer of land to the Film City. Stalin D, director of Vanashakti, said, “The city is losing forest land because of the callous attitude of the authorities. SGNP only decided to actively pursue the matter in 2016, as it wanted to divert attention from the Aarey issue (declaring Aarey as a forest area).”

The Film City plans a complete revamp of facilities, including a film museum, amusement park, studios, production resources and hotels among others.

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