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Mumbai Metro: Committee Says No To Shifting Aarey Colony Shed Site

The committee reportedly cited logistics, cost and a huge delay as the main reasons to lift the stay order.

Published
Environment
2 min read
People protest the felling of trees by Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd in Aarey Milk Colony.
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A committee, set up in December 2019 by the Maharashtra government, has recommended that the stay on the construction of the Metro Rail car shed in Mumbai’s Aarey Milk Colony be lifted.

As reported by the Indian Express, the four-member committee , which is led by Additional Chief Secretary (Finance) Manoj Saunik, made the recommendation to the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s Office on Tuesday, 28 January.

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The Aarey Colony Story

Major protests broke out across Mumbai in October 2019 when the Devendra Fadnavis-led government granted permission to the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) to fell thousands of trees to construct a metro car shed in Aarey Colony. The area in question is often referred to as 'city's lungs,' due to the rich green cover it has.

After protests from environmental campaigners and locals escalated, the matter even reached the Bombay High Court, with petitioners wanting the Aarey Colony area to be declared a forest, to prevent the trees from being cut down.

The high court dismissed the petition, saying “Aarey is not a forest,” and the trees were cut down at night. Protests continued at a large scale across Mumbai, to call for conservation of the green cover.

Uddhav Thackeray’s Intervention

After the Assembly elections in November 2019, Fadnavis was forced to resign and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was sworn in as chief minister. The day after taking charge, Thackeray announced that a stay order had been imposed on the Aarey metro car shed, and no more trees would be cut until further investigation into the matter.

Environmentalists welcomed the decision, so did locals and various other leaders. Ex-CM Fadnavis had tweeted that the stay order showed that the new government did not care about infrastructural development, but Thackeray clarified that the order only restricted the felling of trees in Aarey, and not the Mumbai Metro project as a whole.

Thackeray subsequently appointed the four member committee, consisting of the additional chief secretary (Finance), principle secretary (Environment), MD of Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation and the chief forest conservator of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (Borivali). The primary tasks of this committee were to look into any alternate sites that could be used instead of Aarey, and to examine the financial and logistical feasibility of shifting the shed.

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What Now?

According to the Indian Express report, the committee cited logistical hurdles, increased financial cost, and a huge consequent delay as the main reason to vie for the lifting of the stay order. According to the original schedule, the metro would have been operational from December 2020, but the government intervention has caused a year-long delay. Other sites for the project were found to be unsuitable.

The committee has also allegedly argued that that any damage to the green cover has already been done, making the stay order redundant now.

It remains to be seen whether Thackeray accepts the committee’s recommendation, or pushes for a stay regardless. Environmentalists and locals, who had initially protested against the tree felling, are also expected to continue their struggle to save the Aarey green area.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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