Two years ago, environmentalists and climate activists fought tooth and nail to save Aarey Forest from being utilized for Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation. 

However, while they won that fight, Aarey is once again under threat, and this time, due to forest fires. 

Aarey Forest Fires
Source: Free Press Journal

As per reports, between January and March, 27 of the 48 fires in Mumbai city and suburbs have been reported from Aarey. In fact, four fires were reported in the first week of March itself. 

Aarey Forest Fires
Source: Mid-Day

Reportedly, the lack of proper fire management, and more importantly, lack of adequate punishment, has led to a rise of carelessness that translates to multiple forest fires. 

Since no one is punished for setting forested areas on fire, such incidents continue unabated. On many occasions, we call the fire brigade. This damages green patches and affects wildlife in the area.

                    - Sanjiv Valsan (Save Aarey Movement) to Mumbai Mirror

While most fires are doused within hours, the alarming frequency at which these forest fires are taking place has left many local citizens and environmentalists concerned.  

The fire incidents have become a regular issue now, every day there would be a fire for a couple of hours and it would get doused after that.

                    - Rizwan Merchant to Free Press Journal

Allegations have also been made that these fires are being deliberately set, either by tribals or 'rogue' government agencies, to encroach on the forest land. 

However, according to Hindustan Times, Harish Shetty, deputy fire officer, attributed the fires to 'greater human presence' in the area. 

The reason behind more forest fires in Aarey, compared to Sanjay Gandhi National Park, is more human presence. In SGNP, movement of people is restricted and there is proper fire management strategy in place. In Aarey it is the opposite. Some tourists must have left behind a burning cigarette or beedi. It happens often.

And even as the national media and government remain largely silent, people have taken to social media to highlight the issue:  

Irrespective of the reason behind them, what can't be denied is that these fires pose a very real threat to the environment.