Construction material spotted near Metro site at Aarey; activists irked
Have the Metro authorities started construction work inside Aarey Colony in violation of the National Green Tribunal's (NGT) orders? Locals spotted cement and gravel heaped at the site opposite the proposed car shed plot for Metro III, despite a court order prohibiting any construction in Aarey. When questioned by mid-day, the MMRC chief said they were building a fence, but made a misleading claim about permission to undertake the work.
Activists have been fighting tooth and nail against development in the eco-sensitive Aarey, and the NGT expressly prohibited any construction work there until it decides on the dispute over the Metro III car shed. However, yesterday, a nature lover sent this paper a picture of construction material at the plot opposite the car depot site (both plots are under MMRC's possession). This is the same plot where the MMRC had carried out tree plantation after activists protested that the Metro project would wipe out 2,298 trees in Aarey.
A nature lover sent this picture of the construction material at the plot, where the MMRC has already begun the work of installing a fence.
"I was under the impression that no kind of construction activity is allowed Aarey. I was shocked to see construction material at the spot where MMRC had planted trees," alleged the nature lover who regularly visits Aarey for evening walks.
This reporter contacted MMRC managing director Ashwini Bhide, who said, "We are installing barbed wire fencing around the plot to prevent cattle from entering, since there are chances that the trees that we have planted on the plot could get destroyed. It was only after we took all the necessary permissions from the Aarey CEO's office that the work was started."
However, mid-day contacted Aarey CEO Gajanan Raut, he denied this. "The NGT passed a status quo order on construction in Aarey, and we have not given permission to MMRC to do any kind of construction work here," he said.
Stalin D, an activist from the NGO Vanashakti and a member of the Save Aarey Conservation Group, said, "This is a violation of the status quo order and it proves that MMRC does not care about the court orders. We will inform the NGT about this brazen violation."
On August 27 last year, mid-day had reported about the status quo order passed by the NGT, prohibiting any construction in Aarey.
"Status quo means the situation must remain the same as it was in August 2015. It means that not even a single stone or brick can be moved from its place. If any kind of work is being done then it is contempt of court and we will inform the NGT," said Advocate Zaman Ali, who represents the petition against the car depot.