Request Shiv Sainiks to educate their allies about importance of Aarey: Jairam Ramesh

Mumbai: The Aarey tree-felling issue has now become a major poll plank. From the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP Supriya Sule to Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray, everyone has opposed the axing of the 2000-plus trees in the city's last green lung for the metro car shed project.

On Tuesday, senior Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam and former union minister Jairam Ramesh visited Aarey to protest the government’s decision on cutting trees.

The duo also interacted with environmental activists, discussing the ecology of the Aarey belt. “Anyone who has stayed here can clearly say, the Aarey belt is the lung of the city,” said Jairam.

While serving as the union minister of environment and forests during the UPA rule, Jairam had also not been in favour of the proposed Navi Mumbai airport by then, citing it would have serious environmental implications, as cutting down the mangroves would harm the ecology.

“I have stayed in Mumbai for 12 years, I would often visit the Aarey forest as it would 'detox' me. I wonder how the government is allowing this to happen,” he added.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has defended the project claiming the portion of Aarey where the car shed is proposed to be set up is pasture land, belonging to the state’s dairy department and will boost the environment, as the metro line will bring down pollution and carbon emission by significant margin.

Jairam said a tender has been passed to cut 2,000-plus trees, while the MMRCL will be chopping more than 4,000 trees in the process. As a result, the fauna – reptiles, birds and animals – will be severely affected.

“The government is more interested in money-making through infrastructure and real estate, but environment conservation is more important,” said the senior Congress leader.

BJP's alliance partner Shiv Sena has opposed the project with both Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray being at the forefront, vowing to protect the forest and standing firm against the cutting of the trees.

“I appreciate the Sena’s concern over the issue. Hence, I would request the Shiv Sainiks to educate their allies about the importance of the Aarey belt,” added the former union minister.

On the other hand, on Monday, the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) national spokesperson, Preeti Sharma Menon had slammed the Sena, claiming its stand against the tree-cutting was hypocritical and an attentiongrabbing gimmick.

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