The plot that local Shiv Sena MLA Ravindra Waikar had suggested for the proposed Metro car shed in Aarey Colony on the day the authorities began felling trees, was rejected by the technical committee formed to explore other options for the site of the Metro car shed.
The committee had said the plot was encroached upon and was smaller in size as against the requirements of the car shed. Waikar, state housing minister in the BJP-Shiv Sena government, is also the MLA from Jogeshwari Assembly constituency that consists of Aarey Colony. On Saturday, Waikar told The Indian Express he had suggested to the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) to use the slum-encumbered plot to save the area that has a lot of trees.
In 2015, after opposition from local residents and activists, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had formed a committee to look for other options as sites for the car shed. The committee had studied nine sites, including two at Aarey Milk Colony. The existing plot that the MMRCL barricaded for the car shed was free of any encroachment but was a major biodiversity spot with 4,000 trees, many of which are heritage. The other site – suggested by Waikar – is a plot encroached upon by a slum known as Sariput Nagar in Andheri (East) near Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road (JVLR).
The report of the technical committee, which was submitted in October 2015, had rejected the option of Sariput Nagar citing that it does not have enough space to build a car shed. Environmentalist Stalin D, who was part of the meeting with the MMRCL and Waikar, said, “Waikar had suggested to the MMRCL to use the other plot at Aarey but they refused, saying the government’s decision will be final.”
The MMRCL is facing criticism from local residents and environmentalists for felling trees at Aarey Colony. The authority started felling trees immediately after the Bombay High Court dismissed four petitions related to tree felling on Friday.
The MMRCL will remove 2,646 trees from the proposed car shed site. However, activists alleged that the authorities started illegally felling trees late on Friday, even though they had to wait for 15 days after the BMC’s permission to them for felling trees was uploaded on its website.
But the permission had been uploaded on Friday. However, the MMRCL said since the court had dismissed the petitions, they could go ahead with the exercise of felling trees for the car shed.