Taking a firm stance on the row over building a Metro car shed at Aarey, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Friday said shifting the project elsewhere would not be beneficial to Mumbai’s development.
During a discussion in the legislative assembly, the Chief Minister also took a veiled dig at ally Shiv Sena and its leader Uddhav Thackeray, saying, “It is for native Mumbaikars to decide the way forward for development in Mumbai.”
Thackeray and his son Aaditya have been aggressive in their opposition to chopping trees for building the Metro car shed at Aarey Colony. The proposal to build the shed for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro route has also faced resistance from green activists and local citizens.
Interestingly, almost no Shiv Sena legislator was present in the House when Fadnavis made the jibe. Ravindra Waikar, who represents a constituency affected by the development, was seated on the treasury benches, but remained silent throughout the CM’s speech.
Fadnavis said “some of the opposition (to the shed) was based on misunderstandings and misgivings”. “It is true that the original car shed design for Aarey involved hacking of 2,300 trees. But we have revised the design and the new plan would see shedding of 350 to 500 trees,” Fadnavis said.
An alternative to construct the car shed on a fallow land in Kanjurmarg has been under consideration, but the chief minister did not favour the option. “The land that has been identified is marshy. If we decide to build the car shed on it, it would require reclaiming this land, which itself would increase the input cost by Rs 1,500 crore. This hike would affect the overall project cost, which would then reflect in increased ticket fares,” Fadnavis said.
The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) had earlier reasoned that filling up of the marshy land would take two years and delay the project, which is being targetted for completion by 2019.
Appealing to activists, Fadnavis said the Metro project would improve the overall environmental quality, by bringing down the “net carbon footprint.”
“I’m a Nagpur native, and plan to go back to Nagpur after retirement. But before that, I would like the Mumbai citizens to feel that this Nagpurkar loved the city so much that he worked for improving it,” Fadnavis said.
But Dayanand Stalin, a director at the NGO Vanashakti, which has filed a petition before the National Green Tribunal against the Aarey car shed plan, said, “At a time when the matter is pending before the tribunal, the chief minister has shown contempt of the judiciary by commenting on his choice for the carshed. We’ll bring this to the tribunal’s notice. The CM will also have to explain the Rs 1,500-crore cost increase at the Kanjurmarg site. The land is not marshy, as is being portrayed,” he said. Stalin also said that the government must explore other options including a land parcel that is available in Kalina, while accusing the government of using Metro development as a garb to unlock Aarey land for commercial development.