Aarey Colony Timeline: Here's what has happened so far in dispute
The story started this year when Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) asked Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for permission to cut trees in the Aarey colony
Despite huge protests to prevent the felling of trees in Aarey colony, the court has approved the proposal made by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to make a Metro Car Shed. In a city like Mumbai, where concrete dominates greenery, the move was seen as a huge setback for activists who have been crying hoarse about the environmental implications that cutting 2700 trees is going to have.
BMC's Tree Authority (TA) approves the cutting down of trees
The story started this year when Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) asked Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for permission to cut trees in the Aarey colony. BMC's Tree Authority (TA) approved it on August 29 and activists soon started petitions to prevent the cutting of trees. "We opposed the proposal right till the end but no other members stood by their earlier vote. Two members of Congress walked out without even voting despite our repeated requests," Yashwant Jadhav, a Shiv Sena leader said about the TA meeting.
'Save Aarey' movement launched
Various petitions were started and celebrities like Dia Mirza, Randeep Hooda, John Abraham and Shraddha Kapoor protested against the move by starting a 'Save Aarey' movement. Shraddha Kapoor even took to the streets to be a part of the protest and took to her Instagram handle to write, "2700+ trees are slated to be chopped down for the Metro. Unacceptable. Shocking. As if we don’t have enough environmental issues already. As if Mumbai doesn’t have enough pollution already. And permission is granted to chop off our lungs." She was part of a 5 km human chain that was formed on September 1.
Activists write a letter to PM Modi
Activists even wrote a long letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi telling him about the importance of saving Aarey forest. "As such Aarey has all the traits and attributes which qualifies it to be preserved as reserved/protected forest and at no cost any further development should be allowed which will create an imbalance in the present delicate ecosystem,” the letter said.
'Aarey Aika Na' – MMRC chief tells us the environmental benefits of Mumbai Metro
MMRC chief Ashwini Bhide launched a counter campaign ('Aarey Aika Na') as a response to these protests. On September 6, she tweeted, "Environmental benefits of @MumbaiMetro3 as assessed by @OfficialDMRC and validated by #UNFCC auditors. 2.61 lakh metric ton of CO2 will be reduced every year as the comprehensive public transport connectivity improves and modal shift happens. #AareyAikaNa @CMOMaharashtra."
CM Devendra Fadnavis speaks on the issue
Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis (on September 14) said that the area does not come under forest land. He also argued that the formation of an underground metro will reduce carbon footprint. "The proposed site is the government's land and it neither comes under bio-diversity nor is it a forest land," Fadnavis told reporters. “Why we save trees because we want to reduce the carbon footprint. So, we need to understand one thing that how much carbon footprint is going to be reduced due to the underground Metro,” he added.
Amitabh Bachchan faces flak
On September 17, Amitabh Bachchan too got embroiled in controversy after he came out in support of the Metro project. He tweeted about how Metro helped his friend reach the hospital and cut his commute time. He said that the solution to pollution was planting trees in your garden. Some users told Bachchan that most Mumbaikars don't have this luxury as they don't have a garden. 22 students protested outside his house and they were detained by the police.
Akshay Kumar bats for Mumbai Metro
Even Akshay Kumar tweeted a video where he spoke about how travelling by Mumbai Metro helped him cut his commute time. He had to travel from Ghatkopar to Versova, and he did so in 20 minutes. Netizens slammed the 'Kesari' actor for indirectly promoting BMC's decision to cut down the Aarey forest.
Alternative car shed in Kanjurmarg not feasible, says BMC Chief
On September 18, the Bombay High Court considered the plea of petitioners and asked the state government if relocating the car shed to Kanjurmarg was a viable option. Unfortunately, the proposal was turned down as the cost of constructing a car shed will amount to Rs. 5,000 crore according to BMC Chief Praveen Pardeshi. "The Kanjurmarg land is owned by some private party and if we want to acquire it, then Rs 5,000 crore will have to be spent. Also, since the matter is in court, it will take at least 2-3 years for (land) acquisition and the Metro 3 project will be severely affected since most of the work has been completed," he said at the Standing Committee meeting.
Bombay HC clears the cutting of trees
In response to the various petitions filed by activists like Shiv Sena’s Yashwant Jadhav and Zoru Bathena, the Bombay High Court (on October 4) passed an order clearing the cutting of the trees. Also, the court refused to declare the Aarey Colony as forest land.
Section 144 imposed
Pic courtesy/Anurag Ahire
Within hours of the verdict, the authorities started cutting the trees and it was met with stiff resistance from around 100 concerned citizens. Following which, the Mumbai Police imposed Section 144 (banning unlawful assembly) in the area. Dilip Sawant, additional commissioner of police (North) said, "To maintain the law and order situation in the area, we have detained several people from the intervening night of October 4 and 5. We have also released most of them and rest will be released soon. And to prevent activist from getting into Aarey colony we have cordoned off the area. An FIR registered under sections 332, 353, 143 and 149 of Indian Penal code."
The land measures 1,287 hectares and is home to a wide range of flora and fauna according to environmentalists.
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