Mumbai Metro III: Hundreds march against plan to axe over 2,000 trees in Aarey

Over 400 citizens gathered for a silent march in Aarey Colony to protest the Metro authorities’ plan to chop 2,298 trees for the construction of a car depot there

While most of the nation was glued to the television during the India-Pakistan cricket match on Sunday morning, over 400 Mumbaikars chose to gather in Aarey Milk Colony instead, where they staged a silent demonstration against the proposal to cut 2,298 trees to make space for Metro line III’s car depot.

 In a symbolic protest against the death of over 2,000 trees, demonstrators covered logs in a shroud
In a symbolic protest against the death of over 2,000 trees, demonstrators covered logs in a shroud

Not only was the turnout beyond expectations, especially considering the World Cup match, but the cause also seemed to have gained political currency with parties such as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), whose members also participated in the protest.

Green warriors: Over 400 citizens joined the silent protest against the proposal to cut 2,298 trees in Aarey Milk Colony to make space for the Metro III car depot. Pics/Sameer Markande
Green warriors: Over 400 citizens joined the silent protest against the proposal to cut 2,298 trees in Aarey Milk Colony to make space for the Metro III car depot. Pics/Sameer Markande

The protest came days after it was revealed that the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) allegedly lied to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in its Environmental Impact Assessment report while seeking loans worth almost R5,000 crore.

The report said there was “no wildlife” at the car depot site, despite leopards and other animals being sighted in the vicinity (‘Did MMRC lie to get Rs 5,000 from Japan for Metro?’, mid-day, February 12).

The protest was organised by the group Save Aarey Milk Colony, and participants marched from Picnic Point to the proposed site for the Metro car depot nearby. About 50-70 children carried banners against the car depot and, in a move reminiscent of the Chipko movement, hugged trees to protest against their felling.

Activists explained to the people that it was important to have the depot site shifted in order to save the trees and wildlife in Aarey Colony. The demonstrators made a human chain along Aarey Colony road to catch the attention of passers-by and also signed a petition against the project.

Building pressure
Buoyed by the success of yesterday’s protest, the Save Aarey Milk Colony group now plans to hold another silent protest march on a working day, so that people will be able to see the ongoing levelling and construction work at the car shed site. The group also hopes to take the protest to the Chief Minister’s office.

In the meantime, they will post pictures of the protest on social media to maintain the buzz around the cause, while animal lovers intend to visit the Metro site and click photographs of birds, reptiles and other wildlife at the spot, in an effort to prove that the MMRC was wrong to claim there is no wildlife there.

Activist speak

Santosh Shinde
President, NGO SARRP (Spreading Awareness on Reptiles and Rehabilitation Programme) 
We are happy that MMRC is constructing the Metro line III as it will be helpful for commuters, but we oppose its construction in Aarey. I am shocked that the authorities said there is no wildlife at the proposed car depot site.

Pawan Sharma
Member of NGO Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare 
The concerned authorities are ignoring wildlife, which directly depends on the more than 2,000 trees they are planning to chop off. Where will the animals go when their habitat is destroyed? We appeal to other like-minded individuals and organisations to back the Save Aarey Milk Colony group and make this one of the largest environmental movements in the city.

Stalin Dayanand
Member of NGO Vanshakti
Everyone who reads newspapers and watches TV is aware that there is wildlife in Aarey Colony. We appeal to more people to come forward and join the cause, because the car depot will only be shifted if we build pressure on the authorities.

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