On Day 1, Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray says no carshed in Aarey
One of the first decisions that newly sworn-in Maharashtra Chief Minister took was to stay the construction of the Mumbai metro rail carshed in the city’s green lung Aarey Colony, where strong protests had erupted last month against cutting of trees for the work.
Speaking to mediapersons at the state secretariat on his first day at work, Thackeray said: “I have stayed the work of the Aarey carshed. The work will not happen without a thorough review. I will not tolerate killing of trees in the dead of the night. Not one leaf will be plucked from the tree. I will do whatever is necessary to stop that.”
Senior state secretariat officials of the state confirmed that the chief minister issued directives to the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRC) to conduct a review.
Then BJP-led government in Maharashtra had come under fire from green activists in October when over 2,000 trees were felled for a carshed, to be constructed in Aarey Colony which is adjacent to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The Shiv Sena, then junior partner in the Devendra Fadnavis government, had opposed the felling of trees.
The Bombay high court had on October 4 refused to declare Aarey Colony a forest and declined to quash the Mumbai municipal corporation’s decision to allow felling of over 2,600 trees in the green zone to set up a metro carshed. Hours after the court gave a go-ahead, tree were cut at night, fuelling further protests. The Supreme Court last month sought a status report with pictures on plantation, transplantation and felling of trees in Aarey colony area.
Thackeray clarified that he has not stayed development work, and the construction of the Metro line will continue uninterrupted. He further clarified that the government will take a decision about the location of the carshed after review. “We will decide if the carshed needs to be constructed at Aarey. We are neither against development work, nor have we stopped the metro work,” he said.
Former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis reacted on social media stating, “Japan’s JICA has funded Rs 15,000 crore for this Metro project on nominal interest rates. Such decisions will demotivate investors to come forward in future and all infrastructure projects will get stalled which are already delayed for so long in previous 15 year rule.”
However, green activists lauded the new CM’s move. Zoru Bathena, one of the petitioners asking for a stay in the construction of the carshed said, “It is a welcome move. The Chief Minister is very clear in his directives. He has stayed the work. This is in complete contrast to how the BJP government was treating us, as it said it will 100% go ahead with the carshed. Sena has always supported the issue.”
Amrita Bhattacharjee, another petitioner said, “The stay is welcome. This area is a forest land as well as catchment of the Mithi river. Destruction of this area will lead to severe floods. We also demand the area should be restored to its original state.”
The MMRC has already completed 70% of the tunnelling for the project. Officials had earlier said that without the carshed in place, work will face delays. The first train for Metro-3 will arrive in November 2020. MMRC has already cut 2141 of the 2185 trees at Aarey, which is effectively 97% of the trees that had to be cut for the Metro car-shed.
After being sworn in on Thursday, Thackeray held his first cabinet meeting, and announced a cabinet decision to allot Rs 20 crore for the development of Raigad. “I am happy to tell you all that the first decision that this Cabinet has taken is to approve Rs 20 core for the development of Raigad which was the capital of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj,” he said.