Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, on his very first day at work, Friday said he had ordered a stay on work for a Metro car shed in Aarey colony in Mumbai till a review is completed.
While stating that “not a single leaf of a tree can be cut until the review is taken and further course of action decided,” Thackeray clarified he “has not stopped the Metro work or any other development work”.
There were angry protests last month by green activists and residents who objected to the felling of trees for the car shed. Trees were felled on October 4 night, hours after the Bombay High Court dismissed a petition challenging the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s decision to allow felling of 2,185 trees and transplantation of 460 trees for the project.
The issue took a political turn with the Shiv Sena, then an ally of the ruling, opposed the Metro move. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) said only two per cent of the Aarey land would be used. On October 21, the Supreme Court said there was no stay on construction of the proposed car shed project. It sought a report on the number of trees cut.
On Friday, Thackeray, addressing the press in Mantralaya after taking charge, said: “\I have ordered a stay on the Metro car shed in Aarey colony. And until I review it completely, there will be no work there. Because, I read news reports today that trees were cut during the night. I cannot tolerate this.”
He was quick to add that he “has not stopped the Metro work or any other development work.” “If we are undertaking development by destroying existing things, then it is not development. Not a single leaf of a tree can be cut until a review is taken and further course of action is decided. All the remaining trees should be retained as it is,” he said.
Former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said it is “unfortunate that State Government stayed Aarey Metro CarShed work in spite of Hon Supreme Court & Hon High Court orders”.
“This shows State Government is not serious about Mumbai Infrastructure projects! And ultimate sufferer is the common Mumbaikar only!” Fadnavis tweeted with hashtag “savemetrosaveMumbai”.
Fadnavis said the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) had given Rs 15,000 crore for the Metro project on “nominal” interest rates. “Decisions as the one taken by Thackeray will demotivate investors and all infrastructure projects will get stalled, which were already delayed for “so long” during the Congress-NCP combine’s 15-year rule till 2014,” he said.
Meanwhile, the new government has called a two-day assembly session starting Saturday. The ruling alliance will take a floor test Saturday. On Friday, the alliance changed the Pro-tem Speaker, replacing BJP’s Kalidas Kolambkar with NCP’s Dilip Walse Patil. Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari administered the oath of office to him.
The election for the post of Assembly Speaker is likely to take place Sunday, when the Leader of Opposition will also be named, most likely Fadnavis.