Will Uddhav Thackeray now allow Aarey Metro car-shed?

Will Uddhav Thackeray now allow Aarey Metro car-shed?

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray addressing media. (PTI Photo)

The vexed Aarey metro car-shed issue has come to the forefront once again. Whether to or not to allow a car-shed for the Mumbai Metro Line-3 will be a major decision that Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray would have to take. 

Thackeray and his son Aditya, who is now the Environment, Tourism and Protocol Minister, had last year opposed the Metro car-shed when the then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was speeding up the project.

It may be recalled on October 4, last year, just before the Vidhan Sabha polls, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) hacked 2,141 trees in the proposed Metro car-shed inside the Aarey Milk Colony, along the western suburbs of this commercial capital. 

Two parallel developments have now left the individuals, NGOs, wildlife and environmental groups, and civil society worrying, who were opposing the project. 

Firstly, a four-member committee headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Finance) Manoj Saunik, that was appointed by Thackeray to study the issue, had reportedly recommended lifting of stay on construction work.

Secondly, the National Green Tribunal has disposed off an application that opposed exclusion of parts of Aarey Milk Colony from the eco sensitive zone (ESZ) around the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).

"We will take the matter to the Supreme Court," said Stalin Dayanand, one of the petitioners and campaigners. "We hope that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government,  the constituents of which (Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP) had opposed the car-shed and stood with us after the felling of trees, would not allow the project to happen," says activist Amrita Bhattacharjee,  who is a petitioner.

At a discussion organised by the Forum of Environment Journalists in India, Prof. Shyam Asolekar, MPCB Chair, Environmental Science Engineering Department,  IIT-Bombay,  said that he stands by his earlier statement that car-shed should  not come up in Aarey.

"Since it was established as a government Milk Colony in the late 1940s, it has been predominantly a low-intensity development zone, forming a much needed buffer area to the SGNP. Aarey is a part of Mumbai's ecologically vital hill complex along with the SGNP and an important catchment area, where streams and tributaries that feed two of four major rivers of the city originate: Oshiwara and Mithi," said Hussain Indorewala, Prof KRV Institute of Architecture, Mumbai.

According to Sulakshana Mahajan, urban planner and former visiting professor at JJ  School of Architecture, Mumbai,  projects like Mumbai metro and car-shed needs to be smart and all aspects, including ecological and social, must be taken into account before planning.