With Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announcing that the Metro 3 car shed project will be relocated from Aarey Colony to Kanjurmarg, Aarey residents are now hoping to replant the site with trees.
The location of the car shed became contentious last year as it involved felling numerous trees at the site. A total of 2,136 trees were felled within hours of the Bombay High ruling in favour of the location of the car shed at the site almost a year ago – on October 4, 2019.
Then BJP-led government (Shiv Sena was then a part of the ruling coalition) invoked Section 144 of CrPC (prohibiting gathering of five or more persons) and around 500 policemen turned the area into a fortress, leading to the arrest of 29 protesters, as residents and others turned out to stop the tree felling. Over 100 people were detained and taken to three police stations.
Thereafter, the site was turned into a barricaded zone with restricted entry. On Monday, the entrance to the site was not as heavily guarded as it had been earlier, but it was still locked while workers inside cleared out construction material.
On November 29, last year, a day after being sworn in as the chief minister, Uddhav had stayed the car shed construction project at Aarey and appointed a committee to look for an alternate site.
But by then, a heap of construction material had been dumped at the site and scores of workers had been deployed. Construction work had began on a building and after the felling of trees, MMRCL had finished levelling the area. Now, some half-constructed ramps and pillars lie at the site.
Prakash Bhoir, a member of the Adivasi Haq Samvardhan Samiti, whose wife Pramila was among those arrested, said: “Now, we want the barricades to be removed. We want to restore the area and start plantation and reinstate the ecological balance.”
Bhoir recalled how on October 5, last year, no one could enter the Aarey Milk Colony without residential proof. Anyone trying to enter without reason was detained. Policemen manned the three access roads to the Aarey Colony – Marol, Powai and Western Express Highway (Goregaon East). Every resident and vehicle wanting to enter the premises had to show photo identity and address proof or permit at every checkpoint.
While locals are hoping for tree replantation, the state government is yet to decide on the fate of the site.
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