Braving the downpour, Mumbaikars came together on Sunday to protest against the cutting of over 2,700 trees in Aarey milk Colony for the upcoming metro shed project.
Report and photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com.
Since last weekend there have been protests in various parts of Mumbai following the city’s civic body's Tree Authority giving its nod to cull over 2,700 trees in Aarey milk colony to make way for a metro car shed.
Apart from the car shed for the metro line 3, a part of the Aarey milk colony -- which adjoins the Sanjay Gandhi National Park -- will also be used to set up the Metro Bhavan, which will function as the nerve-centre for the 337-km network which is under construction
Amidst rising public anger, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis last Friday defended the move to hand over more forest land from Aarey saying there was a need to balance development and environmental concerns.
Having fallen behind New Delhi and Kolkata and also many other cities in terms of public infrastructure, the megapolis is witnessing an unprecedented pace of metro development with nodal agency MMRDA building 14 metro lines covering 337 km across the city at an investment of over Rs 1.25 lakh crore over the next decade.
The MMRDA has been facing flak from greens, locals and celebrities like Shraddha Kapoor who came forward to join the "Save Aarey" movement, after it proposed acquiring a part of the land for building a car shed for metro 3 and setting up the Metro Bhavan on a 20,387 sq mt plot.
"MMRDA's demands are never-ending. We had opposed the carshed in the colony, which would result in felling thousands of trees. But the authorities didn't stop at that, they decided to set up the Metro Bhavan. We are not fighting the metro but our fight is to protect the forests and the green area of the city," environmentalist with the city-based NGO Vanashakti Stalin D told PTI.
Nearly 30 percent of the 3,166-acre Aarey Colony has already been leased out to various government bodies like a veterinary college, for police training and housing, the Film City, for animal husbandry and social forestry, among others.
'We are in the Endgame Now,’ reads one placard at Sunday's protest rally in Aarey Colony.
According to naturalist Shardul Bajikar, the plots that the government is seeking for the project have exotic trees and wildlife, which if cut will lead to major environmental imbalance. "Aarey is an active buffer for the protected areas of the national park. This landscape is a veritable green lung and must be protected as it is," he added.
Aarey, which is 3 km away from Sanjay Gandhi National Park, is also home to leopards.
With inputs from PTI