No car shed at Aarey means no Metro for Mumbai, says MMRCL MD Ashwini Bhide
Tempers soar as officials, activists face off in debate over cutting of trees in Aarey Colony
If there is to be no car shed in Aarey Colony, then there will be no Metro rail in the city, Ashwini Bhide, managing director, MMRCL, told a gathering as officials and activists faced off in public for the first time since protests broke out against the proposed yard in the city's green lung.
"We can't wait for another 10 years for the Kanjurmarg carshed," Bhide implored at a debate organised by SNDT College, with municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi, environmentalists D Stalin and Zoru Bhathena present on stage. While the debate was arranged for the benefit of girl students, the auditorium was packed with activists, government officials and media people.
Ashwini Bhide, director, MMRCL
The issue of a carshed inside Aarey has been agitating activists since it was first proposed in 2014. The issue is back in public eye after the BMC's Tree Authority sanctioned the axing of 2,700 trees on August 29. On Sunday, more than 2,500 citizens gathered at Aarey to protest against the BMC and the MMRCL.
"The carshed, where all the maintenance and operational mechanism take place, is an integral part of Metro and Metro will not be operational if there is no car shed," Bhide said. Though the expert panel suggested Kanjurmarg as an option, the land is in dispute. Forty-seven per cent of the work is completed and the plan can't be changed now."
(From left) Stalin D, environment expert and Ashwini Bhide, director, MMRCL, Sashikala Vanjari, vice-chancellor, SNDT Women’s University, Praveen Pardeshi, Municipal Commissioner and Zoru Bathena, environmental activist
Crediting activists for protecting environment in Mumbai, Pardeshi argued that only 29.99 per cent of Mumbai's land is available for construction and all residential, school, hospital, commercial construction has to be developed within that. "We need to look at things in perspective," he said. "The site is a very small patch of Aarey and it has many trees and grass types, which are not a part of the forest."
However, he admitted that the area where the carshed is proposed is a floodplain and that the city needed advanced systems to tackle floods. Bhathena stressed on the importance of trees and put a cost to axing them. "As per the government, the ecological cost of one tree is '23,000 per year," he said.
"The total cost of trees cut, or to be cut, in Aarey exceeds Rs 3,500 crore in the last five years. While we discuss cost escalation in shifting the carshed, we should also look at the environmental damage, which will be irreparable." He also feared the government will later commercially exploit the Aarey land by developing real estate there. Stalin added: "We accept the Metro as a mode of transport that is necessary, but that does not mean we destroy forests."
No. of citizens who came to Aarey to protest on Sunday
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