Located in the northern suburbs of Mumbai, Aarey Milk Colony’s story is well-worn —a thicketed open space caught in a tug of war between civic development projects and concerns raised by environmental activists. For the Youth for Aarey, however, its 3,166 acres has been their playground for the past one year.

“I consider it the jewel of Mumbai," says co-founder Sukriti Gupta. An environmental educator, Gupta teamed up with organic farmer Aparna Bhangia to set up Youth for Aarey, after she observed that her students didn’t know of green areas in their own neighbourhoods. The youth-led programme draws people, both young and old, to enjoy this space through slacklining, biodiversity walks and painting activities. This month, the group supported a signature campaign called Let Mumbai Breathe, initiated by activist Yash Marwah and helped stall the felling of 2,702 trees in Aarey for the construction of the metro car shed by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation. “We are not activists but we do believe that if people love the area, they will want to protect it," says Gupta.

Youth for Aarey has yoga weekends and a sustainable fashion show coming up. Follow them on Instagram at @youthforaarey.

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