CM Uddhav Thackeray halts Aarey metro car shed project

A tractor carries away the fallen trees for building a construction site of metro car parking shed at Aarey Colony. PTI file photo

In a decision that would rattle the BJP,  Chief Minister on Friday halted the controversial Mumbai metro car shed project in Aarey forest, considered as a green lung of the country's commercial capital. 

Ahead of the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls, the Aarey car shed project was a bone of contention between the two former allies.

The Shiv Sena has been at loggerheads with the then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on the issue.

"I have ordered to stop the work of Aarey metro car shed project today. Metro rail work will not stop but till next decision, not a single leaf of Aarey will be cut," Uddhav told reporters after formally taking over the reins of the state.

"Development will continue...no doubt....but I will never allow the murder of a single tree," he said.

Meanwhile, Uddhav's son Aaditya, the MLA from Worli, has expressed happiness over the decision.

"All the people of Mumbai are happy with this decision. Development works will continue but the harm that was being done to the environment will be stopped," Aditya said.

Meanwhile, BJP spokesperson and former minister Ashish Shelar said that it was improper to scrap development projects in Mumbai and Maharashtra. "It is a jolt to development of Mumbai and its politicisation," he said.

Except for the BJP, other parties including now Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi partners the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress; and its allies, citizens' groups and NGOs are opposed to the project.

The Aarey Milk Colony is located in the periphery of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

In October 2019, after the Bombay High Court dismissed all petitions against the proposed axing of over 2,500 trees in Mumbai's Aarey Colony in Goregaon, in an overnight operation, the Fadnavis government cut down nearly 1,500 trees leading to a string of protests in the city. The matter was taken to the Supreme Court, after which the apex court ordered that no tree would be axed. As the protests against the felling of trees intensified, the police arrested over 70 protesters and imposed section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Aarey Colony and surrounding areas, restricting movements.

The Shiv Sena had declared that when it comes to power they would scrap the car shed project inside the forest.

The Aarey Milk Colony has a total area of 3,160 acres of land owned by the Dairy Development Department of the Maharashtra government. Out of which, the area available for cultivation of quality fodder and grasses is about 400 acres. Parts of the land are also leased out to various organisation and institutions, Maharashtra government and the Centre. The colony houses  30 stables having a capacity for 500 to 550 animals each.

This area is grass and scrubs environment with a few hillocks, possessing two perennial and one seasonal pond as well as many seasonal streams in the area. The vast pastures of the Marutian Para grass are maintained and harvested as fodder for cattle. This area, it may be recalled, also formed the nexus of human-leopard conflict between 2002 and 2004. The habitat being highly varied consisting of scrub forest, seasonal freshwater marshes, hillocks, rocky outcrops, grass and scrub interrupted by human settlements is host to a variety of life forms, thus making this area a biodiversity hotspot in Mumbai.

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