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Report that says Aarey best for car shed not binding on state: Aaditya

PUBLISHED ON JAN 30, 2020 01:15 AM IST

State environment minister Aaditya Thackeray said on Wednesday that the government is yet to take a decision on the report submitted by the four-person committee, which recommended lifting the stay on construction at the Metro-3 (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz) car-shed site in Aarey Milk Colony. Thackeray said the committee’s report is not binding on the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.

On Tuesday, the committee submitted its report to the chief minister’s office. It concluded that shifting the Metro-3 car-shed from Aarey at this juncture would cause escalations in cost and delays. While it recommended lifting the stay on the construction work at the Metro-3 site, the committee also observed that the government should notify unbuilt green areas in Aarey as a no-construction belt so that these may be preserved.

In October 2019, following an order from the Bombay high court, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) had cut more than 2,000 trees in Aarey. At the time, this move was strongly criticised by activists and Shiv Sena.

At a Metro-3 event in Worli on Wednesday, Thackeray said, “Even if the report has been submitted to the chief minister’s office, it is not binding on the state government. A decision will be taken only after thorough study.” He further said, “We will never take any decision that harms the environment. We will only look at sustainable development.” Thackeray also said the state would meet green activists and adopt a balanced approach.

The fully-underground Metro is being built at a cost of 23,136 crore. Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had stalled work on the Metro-3 car-shed after assuming office in November 2019.

Later, a four-member committee was set up to explore alternative sites for the car-shed. Aarey as a site was referred by a state government-appointed committee in 2015.

On Wednesday, former chief minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis tweeted, “Now, stay on Aarey Metro car-shed work needs to be lifted and work started to prevent further financial losses to the state.” An official from the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation also said the state must agree to the “realistic solution”.

Environmental activists have objected to the committee’s recommendation that the stay on the construction of the Metro-3 car-shed in Aarey be lifted.

Zoru Bhathena, an activist said, “The cost of destroying a flood plain and a natural environment are not calculable in terms of money. If the depot stays in Aarey, Mumbai will pay gravely for this, year after year after year.”

Referring to the committee’s observations about cost escalation, activist Yash Marwah said, “We hope the government considers environmental and social costs associated with the project too. Floods make Mumbai lose crores of rupees every year.”

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