Forests

Aarey: Metro car shed project supporters, opponents lock horns online; accuse and justify

The new government of Maharashtra had issued directions to move the project to Aarey forest hours after taking oath June 30

 
By Himanshu Nitnaware
Published: Friday 22 July 2022
Photo: @ConserveAarey / Twitter
Photo: @ConserveAarey / Twitter Photo: @ConserveAarey / Twitter

Supporters and opponents of the Metro car shed 3 project being constructed by carving out a chunk of the Aarey forest in Mumbai are crossing swords online as the issue heated up after the recent change in government in Maharashtra.

Environment lovers and pro-government decision groups have locked horns over the issue on social media, with multiple accusations and justifications.

A major argument made by the group pitching for the Metro car shed at Aarey even went ahead claiming, “If the same amount of land is going to be utilised, then why not Aarey?”

Stalin D, an environmentalist with the non-profit Vanashakti and one of the petitioners against the project said, “If that is the argument, why not Kanjurmarg as suggested by the Uddhav Thackeray government? This way, an equal amount of land is used, the forest is protected and biodiversity is not lost.”

He added that if Kanjurmarg was selected as the location of the project, it would be on government land and no money would be spent for purchasing the same. “It is the sheer adamant attitude of the government which is being pressured by the real estate lobby,” he said.

Stalin alleged that political leaders and real estate developers had colluded for vested interests. “We have procured a series of materials and documents that have been shared widely with the media alleging a Rs 60,000 crore scam and establishing a nexus between the two parties,” he added.

Stalin said he and others wanted to challenge Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kirit Somaiya to come forward and answer a few of their queries and explain his role in the Aarey forest scam.

Zoru Bhathena, another petitioner, told Down To Earth, “We will continue to protest and fight for the cause of the environment as representatives of the Save Aarey Forest movement.”

Bhathena added, “We do not believe the newly formed government is of any essence. It is a marriage of convenience. The decision to turn over the previous government’s stay was done without holding a cabinet meeting or taking other members of the government into confidence.”

Project supporters have also labelled specific groups and individuals online as the ‘NGO mafia’, who aim to disrupt critical development projects. They allege that these ‘NGO mafias’ are confusing people by stating “the green lungs of Mumbai will be destroyed”.

The supporters justify the project claiming that the Metro shed will be built on only 30 hectares of Aarey land, amounting to only two per cent of the forest.

However, a study conducted by the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies indicates that creating infrastructure at the dedicated spot will damage ecosystems, increasing flood risks and affecting livelihood for tribals in the region.

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