Nearly, a year ago, the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Mumbai Metro decided to make its way through the city’s Aarey colony but as usual, if some ambitious project is expected to take place in India, there will be "people" who will stand as obstacles. This time, it was the so-called activists and a political party who in the name "environment conservation" scrapped the infrastructural development that was going to happen for the betterment of locals.
Mumbai Metro was an ambitious infrastructure project which attempted to connect every nook and corner of the city by 2021. In order to improve the lifestyle of Mumbaikars, former CM Devendra Fadnavis had introduced this project. It was noted that Mumbai Metro would have solved problems like reducing vehicular traffic which the metro will de-clogs the roads and it shall reduce CO2emission by 2.6 lakh metric tons every year if constructed as per the original plan.
It had clearly stated that only a 2% area of the entire Aarey Colony would have been utilized for the proposed metro car shed as the Sanjay Gandhi Nation Park (SGNP) is spread over 11,687 Hectare whereas Aarey Colony in 1,287 Hectare. Out of the 1,287 hectares, the metro car shed would have been built only on 30 Hectare of Aarey land and even within that 5 Hectare was kept intact for greenery. However, controversies started to erupt.
Protesters started to agitate against the construction of the metro and cutting of the trees of the Aarey "Forest". They had also justified that they were not “opposed” to the idea of Mumbai metro but only to the construction of the metro shed 3 at the “Aarey Forest” which are the “lungs” of Mumbai etc. However, Aarey is not even a forest, it is grazing land. It is not stated by any politician or activist but by the Bombay High Court. Last year, in October, the Bombay High Court had refused to declare Mumbai's Aarey Colony a forest, further canceling four petitions challenging the cutting of trees.
Ahead of the 2019 Assembly elections, then BJP's party ally Shiv Sena had opposed to the idea of the constructing car shed and supported the protestors. Ashwini Bhide who was the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation chief at that time had said that "Metro will save lives & bring back smiles on faces of parents who worry about the safe return of their children traveling on impossibly overcrowded suburban trains. It will carry 17 lakh people/day safely in closed & comfortable AC trains with platform screen doors." However, with an aim to gain power in the state, Shiv Sena, especially Aditya Thackeray tried to divert the minds of the protestors and became an obstacle to bring development in Mumbai.
Now, these are the same people who in the name of "environment conservation" killed the idea of infrastructural development but only when it comes to fulfilling their own benefits. They are completely silent when it comes to protesting against Royal Palms which comes in the very vicinity of the Aarey colony. It is located 2 km inside Aarey from the Metro depot plot. It borders the SGNP forest. It was the same party which had inaugurated the golf course in Royal Palms. For what it’s worth, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has found that golf courses consume a lot of resources and pose serious risks to the environment. Meanwhile, whereas Congress had inaugurated a luxury hotel in Royal palms. And both parties opposed Metro depot in the name of the environment. Similarly to this, there are several other examples that define hypocrisy about these people.
Speaking about the protesters, there were speculations that they were being funded from foreign sources. The Vanashakti NGO
which was at the forefront was under the scanner for receiving funds to sabotage the development in regards to Mumbai Metro as per the Legal Rights Observatory a legal rights watchdog had moved a complaint to Home Affairs Ministry to seek investigation regarding this matter. Earlier, the same legal right watchdog had highlighted how the Catholic Church
ran a signature campaign against the Mumbai Metro 3 project though it’s in the public interest. The Christians had put their own interest above public interest like the one it did during the Konkan Railway-Kudankulam-Aarey.
Now, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced the decision that the Metro 3 car shed will be moved from the Aarey Milk Colony to Kanjurmarg. The then BJP government had made it clear that it "had earlier considered the Kanjurmarg site". However, it was "under litigation and stayed by High Court" as there was a title dispute pending in Bombay HC since 1974 involving private parties and state government. Regarding this matter, the court had issued Status Quo orders in 1997. So this was land was never available for the proposed Car Shed.
Former CM Devendra Fadnavis, after the announcement, slammed Thackeray that it is an "unfortunate decision to shift metro car shed from Aarey to Kanjurmarg and that too just to satisfy the ego." Speaking about the loss, he said, "This means that the Metro project, which would have been in the service of Mumbaikars just next year, has now been postponed indefinitely. Rs 400 crore was already spent for Aarey car shed, Rs 1,300 crore wasted due to staying of the project and additional cost escalation of Rs 4,000 crore."Rs 2,400 crore cost burden if in case the Kanjurmarg land dispute remains as it was. What will be today's cost? Metro project delayed for an indefinite period," Fadnavis added. The former chief minister asked what exactly does the state government want to achieve by blocking the seamless journey of Mumbaikars?
All in all, the government has lost the opportunity to create a speedy, convenient, efficient mode of travel in a city clogged with traffic and people.