Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray
Photo: Uddhav Thackeray Official Page/Facebook

The controversial Metro 3 carshed project in Aarey has been axed by the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government and it will be relocated to Kanjurmarg on government land. Announcing this in a web address on Sunday, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said the Metro 3 and 6 line maintenance facilities would be amalgamated by developing a carshed at Kanjurmarg without cost escalation.

‘‘The land available in Kanjurmarg is government land and will be available free of cost. I signed the order for the relocation of Metro 3 carshed to Kanjurmarg yesterday (Saturday). The uncertainty over the carshed is over now,’’ said Thackeray. He further declared that instead of 600 acres, now 800 acres of land in Aarey Colony, adjacent to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, had been declared reserved forest. ‘‘There will be no infringement on the rights of tribals in the Aarey forest. The biodiversity in Aarey needs to be conserved and protected. Nowhere is there an 800-acre jungle in an urban set-up. Mumbai has a natural forest cover," he said. His announcement comes two days after the government had issued a preliminary notification declaring 328.90 hectares (812 acres) as reserved land in Aarey Colony.

Former Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh tweeted, ‘‘I applaud Uddhav Thackeray ji for finally deciding on this and saving the Aarey ecosystem, so valuable to Mumbaikars. I grew up in this area and I am very well aware of its value.’’

The CM also announced that cases registered last year against citizens and environmentalists who had protested the Metro 3 carshed project and the tree-felling in Aarey Colony had been withdrawn. The state cabinet chaired by Thackeray on September 30 had approved the withdrawal of cases against those who had protested the hacking of more than 2,000 trees in the dead of night in Aarey Colony last October.

Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray, who had campaigned to save the trees, had said last month that the protesters had fought for the future of the planet and the rights of the Adivasis who call Aarey home would be protected.

On Sunday, after the reserved forest announcement was made, Aaditya Thackeray tweeted: "Aarey saved!"

Clashes had broken out between police and green activists who had tried to stop the tree-cutting by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation in Aarey Colony, which led to the arrest of 29 people in the intervening night of October 4 and 5 last year. The activists were forced to spend a night behind bars and were granted bail by a holiday court on a Sunday. Police had booked 38 protesters under various sections of the Indian Penal Code but arrested 29.

On his first day in office as CM on November 29, 2019, Thackeray had stayed the construction of the Metro 3 carshed in Aarey Colony, killing two birds with one stone, as he had not only kept his poll promise but had also checkmated the BJP, which has been playing doomsayer and setting various dates for the collapse of the MVA government. Thackeray had said he would not allow a culture where trees were cut at night. He was obviously targeting former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis (the Shiv Sena was then a junior partner in the government), who had allowed the felling of 2,700 trees in Aarey Colony in October last year, for a carshed. Fadnavis had recently said the MVA government’s plan to relocate the Metro 3 carshed from Aarey reflected wrong policy.

The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation officials had recently expressed apprehension that the Metro 3 project was likely to be delayed by three years and costs were likely to go up by over Rs 2,000 crore should the carshed for the line be shifted from Aarey Colony.

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