In a big win for environmental activists and local residents, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has announced the shifting of the new car shed for the Mumbai Metro to Kanjurmarg, to save the Aarey Colony forest area. He said that the 800 acres of land at Aarey would be declared as forest area, as compared to 600 acres earlier.
The CM also announced that the cases against citizens and environmentalists, who protested against the Aarey project and felling of trees, had been withdrawn.
While there is apprehension that shifting of car shed may delay the Mumbai Metro-3 project by three years and result in cost escalation, this comes as big news for Mumbai citizens who will now have the largest urban forest cover in India.
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Here’s everything you need to know about the Aarey Colony car shed case:
Aarey Colony protests: All you need to know
In October 2018, a petition was filed in the Bombay High Court, claiming that trees were being felled on the Aarey-Marol Road. It further stated that more than 100 huge trees were cut and many more were being surveyed. It was the estimation of the petitioner that almost 400 or more full-grown trees were slated for chopping. Thereafter, the Bombay High Court directed the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) to file an affidavit, stating that it was cutting only those trees at suburban Aarey Colony, for which it had permission.
The protest against tree-cutting gained traction and people from all fields joined the movement to support the cause. The Aarey Conservation Group agitated, to protect the green cover in Aarey Colony, where around 2,700 trees were to be cut, to make way for the car-shed for the Mumbai Metro. They claimed that trees were being chopped down arbitrarily for the metro and activists were not allowed to be present when the trees were cut.
Despite immense protests and petitions, the Tree Authority of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), gave its nod to cut over 2,700 trees for the metro rail car-shed in the leafy Aarey Colony area in Mumbai. A petition was filed in the high court to quash the approval but the court declined to intervene. It further refused to declare Aarey Colony as a forest. However, the case then moved to the Supreme Court, which restrained the authorities in Mumbai from cutting any more trees in the Aarey Colony area, for the proposed metro rail car-shed till further orders.
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With change of guard in the state, the Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government, in December, 2019, ordered a stay on the construction work of the metro car-shed in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony area and announced the setting-up of a four-member panel, headed by additional chief secretary (finance), to identify an alternative land for the metro car-shed.
Aarey Colony latest news
Following the CM’s announcement that the car-shed would be shifted, there has been a lot of talk over the project’s completion timeline and an additional expense of Rs 2,000 crores. The structure constructed at the Aarey Colony site would now be used for some other purpose, Thackeray informed, during the webcast. The land is being provided to the metro authority at zero cost. So far, the authorities have completed 80% tunneling work for the project and 60% civil work. The total cost of the project, which has escalated due to frequent delays and stalling of work, now stands at Rs 32,000 crores. The Mumbai Metro Line 3 Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ corridor will be a 33.5-km route.
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What is the Aarey Colony issue?
Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation wanted to build a metro car shed in Aarey Colony. This would have meant cutting down thousands of trees. Many local citizens were protesting against this.
Why Aarey is not a forest?
Aarey has now been declared a forest.
How many trees are cut down in Aarey?
According to MMRCL, over 2,000 trees were cut in the area, in October 2019.
(With additional inputs from PTI)