Aarey shed moved, no extra cost: Govt

Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said on Sunday that a project to build a subway train parking shed in Mumbai’s Aarey forest will be scrapped, more than a year after protests erupted over the project that activists said threatened a key green space in the country’s financial hub.

In a web address, Thackeray said the project will be shifted to a government land in Kanjurmarg in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai and no cost will be incurred for the purpose. “The land will be available at zero rate,” he said.

He said the building that has already come up in Aarey forest will be utilised for some other public purpose. “About ₹100-crore expenditure was incurred for the purpose and it won’t go to waste,” he said.

The Supreme Court last year halted the cutting of trees in the Aarey Colony for the Metro car shed project that triggered protests by activists and political leaders. The Shiv Sena, currently in power in the state in an alliance with the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, opposed the project before state elections last year, when it was in the previous ruling combine with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Shiv Sena then made the issue part of its election manifesto.

“I am happy to announce that the Aarey car shed is now being moved to Kanjurmarg. The plot in Kanjurmarg is government land and it will be provided at zero cost for Metro car shed. The money used to construct a building — ₹100 crore – will not go to waste either. That building will be used for a public purpose,” Thackeray said.

The CM reiterated that the state government has decided to withdraw cases lodged against citizens and activists who protested against the Metro car shed. The state cabinet recently decided to withdraw the cases.

Thackeray said the government previously declared 600 acres of Aarey land as a reserve forest but now that area has been increased to 800 acres. He said that there will be no infringement on the rights of the tribal people in the area.

“Biodiversity in Aarey needs to be conserved and protected. Nowhere is there an 800-acre jungle in an urban setup. Mumbai has a natural forest cover. We know that jungles are converted to cities, but here city is converted to a jungle. We need to preserve what we have and carry out development in the remaining area,” he said.

Following the announcement to relocate the Metro 3 car shed, Aaditya Thackeray tweeted: “Aarey Saved!”.

While several other Shiv Sena leaders hailed the government move, the Bharatiya Janata Party criticised the move of the Maharashtra government.

“Unfortunate decision to shift Metro CarShed from Aarey to Kanjurmarg and that too just to satisfy ego. This decision will increase the cost of the project by at least ₹4,000 crore and this cost escalation is assessed by the committee appointed by this Government. Why such a huge burden just to satisfy someone’s ego? Whom does government want to suffer and for what?” said former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.

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