Debate between green activists, babus heats up

Mumbai: It is a battle of green versus development, say some, about the felling of trees in Aarey forest. Taking the debate a step further, the Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey (SNDT) University, Churchgate, on Monday held a discussion about the controversial metro 3 carshed, proposed at Aarey. The proposal entails felling of cutting over 2,700 trees. During the discussion, a heated argument broke out between a few environmentalists and bureaucrats. One activist accused the authorities of lying about the metro project. Irked by the allegation, BMC Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi asked the protester to leave the room. It was the first time the authorities, along with activists, were openly drew daggers against each other.

Ashwini Bhide, the Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) managing director, raising concern over the delay in setting up metro depot commented, said, “Taking Metro car depot from Aarey to Kanjurmarg is not possible. So, if that does not happen, Metro 3 will not run, will not be made operational.”

Expressing surprise over the misunderstanding on the Aarey metro depot, Bhide remarked, “We know the 150-year-old public transport of Mumbai carries lakhs of Mumbaikars in sub-human condition and therefore, this project is very much needed. It was in the 1961 Development Plan that the cost of the project was Rs4,000 per km. It was to be implemented by Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST). It was from 2011 we started working on the project with a room full of documents. What are they saying we are not transparent? We are giving all the information on Twitter, Facebook, and other websites. All are welcome. But, things need to be put in perspective. Do not give the wrong impression that it is possible, and we are not doing it,” Bhide asserted. She was replying to Zoru Bhathena, who was also one of the panelists in the debate. Bhathena is a petitioner who has approached the Bombay High Court for shifting of the metro depot from Aarey for environmental reasons.

Bhathena and activist Stalin D shedding light on why thousands of trees in Aarey Colony should not be cut, said, “Aarey is the green lung of the Mumbai. While moving the depot can be quantified in rupees, ecological damage caused by felling of trees cannot be quantified.” While activist Stalin on Bhide’s no-carshed, no-metro statement called it a blackmail. Civic chief Pardeshi on shifting of Metro 3 depot to Kanjurmarg from Aarey commented, “Rs750 crore is the development cost of setting the car depot at Kanjurmarg, but then Rs5,000 is the cost to be paid for acquisition of the land at Kanjurmarg first.” He gave a clarification on the posters doing rounds on social media along with his picture. However, Bhide said, “Kanjurmarg land matter is extremely complex. If the land is not available today and made available after 10 years, should the Metro 3 work stop for 10 years?”

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