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'Amitabh acting as salesman for metro'

Last updated on: September 19, 2019 13:13 IST

'He is posting that someone who took the metro (during a medical emergency) got saved.'
'Let him try doing the same. He cannot peddle nonsense just because he is a star.'

IMAGE: Citizens came out in numbers on September 8, 2019, to protest against the proposed metro car shed in the Aarey forest area of Mumbai. Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

The Bombay high court on Tuesday, September 17, barred the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) from felling trees in the Aarey colony area in nort west Mumbai to make way for a metro car shed till September 30.

Aarey Colony -- also called Aarey forest by environmentalists -- is a 16 km stretch from suburban Andheri to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in suburban Borivali.

The issue came up when MMRCL decided to build a 33 km-long underground metro network from Colaba in south Mumbai to Seepz (Santacruz Electronic Export Processing Zone) in Andheri, north west Mumbai, and decided to erect a car shed for the project in the Aarey area.

This involved cutting down 2,700 trees in the urban forest, described as a lung of Mumbai. Prime Minister Narendra D Modi performed the bhoomi pujan for the project in Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis's presence last week.

 

Environmentalists, who have been up in arms against the MMRCL, demanding that it shift the metro car shed from Aarey to some other part of the city, received a shot in the arm on Tuesday when the Bombay high court stayed any cutting down of trees till September 30.

The Bombay high court chief justice announced that he may visit the site to see for himself the impact of the state's flagship infrastructure project.

Stalin Dayanand, an environment activist with the NGO Vanashakti, launched the 'Save Aarey' campaign four years ago to protest the proposed deforestation.

Bollywood celebrities Lata Mangeshkar, Raveena Tandon and Shraddha Kapoor have lent support to the cause.

"If they are hell bent on showing people that they are above them, then the masses can only try their best and leave the rest to destiny," Stalin tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

What will be the consequences if the Mumbai Metro is given space at the Aarey colony?

You will witness higher temperature, more pollution, less groundwater and loss of habitat.

Besides these four things, humans and wildlife both will be affected.

Ashwini Bhide, managing director, MMRCL, said that out of 400,000 trees in Aarey, only 2,700 trees are being cut. Isn't it a very small number?

It is like saying I will cut only one finger of your body which is only 1 per cent of it, so what is the big deal?

Her arguments, statistics, logic and science have no substance.

They are trying to juggle with figures. She is not telling you there is a 90 acre slum rehabilitation scheme coming inside Aarey.

There is a Metro Bhavan coming up. There is also a zoo coming up.

The metro car shed is only an excuse to destroy Aarey.

Have you followed the #AareyAikaNa on social media explaining why they want the metro?

These are paid trolls, living on crumbs of (the metro's management).

On our side people are coming out with their families, children, mothers and fathers on roads to protect Aarey.

Ashwini Bhide can have thousands of followers on #AareyAikaNa, but the problem is that she has stopped listening long ago.

Now there is no point in telling people #AareyAikaNa.

Don't you think the protests are too late as the project has gone far ahead and now it won't be possible to complete it without the car shed at Aarey?

There is no document which shows that the metro management considered any other place as an option besides Aarey.

Not a single document proves that they did site visits to any alternative place.

Ashwini Bhide has been lying from day one and lying even today.

She never engaged with citizens and today she has gone on straight overdrive conducting programmes and talking about the importance of the metro.

Now she is very conveniently diverting the narrative by portraying people who are trying to save Aarey forests as anti-metro.

Despite her best efforts by spending crores in advertisements in newspapers, nothing has changed for her.

Are you hopeful of a victory?

Of course! I have (high) hopes from the courts.

Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray has come out in support of Aarey.

Not only the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) too have come out in our support.

Even in the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), there are leaders who tell us that what we are doing is right.

The National Green Tribunal refused to designate Aarey as a forest area, isn't it?

They don't have the power to do so. Earlier, in 2015, a judge said he had the power, but the judge who heard this (case) in 2018 said he doesn't.

So we have a judgment on both sides.

Amitabh Bachchan has come out in support of the metro project by stating he planted trees 'in his own garden' and the metro is good because it reduces pollution.

Amitabh Bachchan will sell bananas if you give him money.

He has so much respect as an actor, but here he is acting like a salesman for Mumbai Metro.

He should not be engaging in these things. He is posting that someone who took the metro (during a medical emergency) got saved.

Let him try doing the same. He cannot peddle nonsense just because he is a star.

Amitabh Bachchan said pollution will be under control due to the metro.

(Sarcastically) What you are saying is absolutely right because the metro is doing the same in Delhi and Kolkata. These cities have fantastic air quality and no pollution.

Nobody will abandon their cars for the metro. There is no parking space for cars near metro stations.

People will not leave their homes by taking an autorickshaw or public transport to go to the next metro station. Car owners will always prefer cars.

If the Maharashtra government says the metro will see lesser cars on roads, then they must explain why are they making the coastal road.

Can the Mithi river flood Mumbai airport during heavy rains if the Aarey trees are chopped, as some have said?

Yes. The excess rainwater used to overflow on to this plot in Aarey. This will not happen if the metro shed comes up.

Do you feel that another site, say, Kanjurmarg in north east Mumbai, is an optional site for the car shed?

The government itself said in an affidavit that Kanjurmarg is a good option. Madam Bhide must answer such questions.

Their standing will improve if they listen to the people. If they are hell bent on showing people that they are above them, then the masses can only try their best and leave the rest to destiny.

What about planting six times more trees after cutting these 2,700 trees as the government has said? Will that not work?

You go to the metro car shed site right now. They have planted 400-odd trees which are planted less than five feet from each other and whose canopy extends to 20 to 30 feet. How will these trees grow?

If they were serious, then they should have bought 100 hectares of forest land and then afforested it.

You cannot take away 33 hectares of forest and say that I am going to plant a certain number of trees in a small area.

The impression the government gives is that they are only taking over a small patch of Aarey, which is not as large as you are saying it is.

If I need a piece of wood for some work, will I cut off a block of wood from the door of my house? That is exactly the point.

Aarey is being perforated and the entry point is the metro car shed. That is the gap in the door which we don't want.

SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
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