Monday, May 25, 2020 | Last Update : 11:34 AM IST

62nd Day Of Lockdown

Maharashtra50231146001635 Tamil Nadu162778324112 Gujarat140636412858 Delhi134186540261 Rajasthan70283848163 Madhya Pradesh66653408290 Uttar Pradesh62683538161 West Bengal36671339272 Andhra Pradesh2780184156 Bihar257470211 Karnataka208965442 Punjab2060189840 Telangana1854109253 Jammu and Kashmir162180921 Odisha13365507 Haryana118476516 Kerala8485206 Assam393584 Jharkhand3701484 Uttarakhand317583 Chandigarh2621794 Chhatisgarh252640 Himachal Pradesh203594 Tripura1941650 Goa66160 Puducherry41120 Manipur3220 Meghalaya14121 Arunachal Pradesh210 Mizoram110 Sikkim100

Will Metro puncture Mumbai’s green lung?

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Sep 20, 2019, 1:36 am IST
Updated : Sep 20, 2019, 1:36 am IST

The Shiv Sena and the Congress see it as “overgovernance” and “vote politics”.

There are 27 Adivasi villages in the colony, the residents of which complain of moves to declare these as slums and of a “sense that they are being targeted”.
 There are 27 Adivasi villages in the colony, the residents of which complain of moves to declare these as slums and of a “sense that they are being targeted”.

Mumbai needs the Metro. It can strengthen the public transport network of India’s “Maximum City” and prove, as is being advertised, to be its clever “solution for (air) pollution”. It will also spare a large number of citizens using the Mumbai local train network their daily struggle for space.

To bring the Metro car to these citizens, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation, along with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, has been planning since 2015 to build a yard on 74 acres in Aarey Milk Colony, a suburb in the eastern part of the city. What, however, is the cost of this plan? Not much, say the authorities, it is 2,700 fully grown trees — and an ecosystem comprising 290 wild species, of which five, including leopards, are on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red list. New species of jumping spiders were discovered here as late as in 2016. There are 27 Adivasi villages in the colony, the residents of which complain of moves to declare these as slums and of a “sense that they are being targeted”.

But environmentalists have warned that deforestation in Aarey Colony, which serves as a giant soakpit in the catchment area of the Mithi, can lead to worse flooding next year, dividing Twitterati. Among the political parties, the BJP and the NCP are backing the project. The Shiv Sena and the Congress see it as “overgovernance” and “vote politics”.

So what is the fresh solution to this dilemma? Relocation. Why not move the project to nearby Kanjurmarg, where unlitigated land is still available? The MMRC contends that it is too expensive. In that case, why not cancel the 36-km road planned along Mumbai's western coast as well as the Rs 3,600-crore Shivaji statue project that will also require taking land from the sea at a huge financial and environmental cost? That money can be used towards sparing Aarey and improving the local train system.

For the 2,700 trees cut down, the MMRC has promised to plant 13,000 trees in 30 days. Reports say that 56 per cent of the 1,483 trees transplanted by MMRC are already dead and that number is increasing. Significantly, the official tender issued by MMRC for felling of trees states that it is in possession of 62 hectares of land. It has told the Supreme Court that it will use not 30, but 65, hectares in Aarey. There are plans to build a Metro Bhavan and a regional transport office of the Maharashtra motor vehicles department in Aarey.  

Perhaps pertinently, Aarey’s loss of green cover has been subtle and steady. While in 1949 the colony was spread over 3,262 acres, today there are only 2,089 acres of forest cover left.

Three cases are currently being heard on Aarey. Two of them, originally filed in the National Green Tribunal and the Bombay high court, are in the Supreme Court. A third petition filed in the high court has resulted in a ruling by a bench led by Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog that stayed the cutting of trees till September 30.

The battle to save Aarey now seems set for the long haul.

Tags: aarey milk colony, national green tribunal, mumbai metro rail corporation
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT