Save Aarey from environ’mental’ists

The protest against Metro Car Shed at Aarey can be considered to be a model protest where facts don’t matter, emotions do.

NewsBharati    19-Jul-2022 13:00:00 PM   
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Maharashtra is about to witness yet another drama in the coming months after the new government has announced a reversal of the scrapping of the construction of a Metro Car Depot at Aarey Colony (a socialist failure of a government-owned dairy business). It all started in August 2019 when the BMC’s Tree Authority approved a proposal to cut 2185 trees on the land reserved for the construction of the Metro Car Shed. Soon, the local NGOs, “concerned environmentalists” which obviously included Bollywood stars (everyday visitors to the big Film City in Aarey) came to the site to protest against the felling of trees. The protests reached their peak comedy when a young protestor hugged a tree that was not proposed to be cut.

Aarey article 2 
The protest against Metro Car Shed at Aarey can be considered to be a model protest where facts don’t matter, emotions do. After the Aarey protests in 2019 and the change of the government in the same year, the new government approved the cutting of one hectare of mangrove area for the Airoli-Thane road flyover [1] and an approval to cut more than 1000 trees for the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link [2]. Perhaps the above trees were not considered to be trees by the Aarey protestors.
The facts about the Metro project are already in the public domain. To revise, here are a few:
1. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) clearly states that Mumbai Metro line 3 will effect carbon emission reductions of 26 lakh tonnes within a decade (2021 - 2030) of its commissioning. [3]
2. On average, a tree can absorb 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. This roughly leads to 48 tonnes for around 2,200 trees that were axed for the construction of the Metro rail depot. [3]
3. The Metro Line 3 costing nearly Rs 30,000 crores, will help save approximately 2.5 lakh liters of fuel per day i.e. about Rs 550 crore per year. The reduction in fossil fuel consumption will lead to a reduction in emissions by an incredible 6,800 tonnes per annum. It will help remove 456,771 vehicles from the roads of Mumbai. [4]
4. Out of 3,166 acres that Aarey Milk Colony occupies, the Maharashtra government handed over 30 hectares (74 acres) for the depot. Of this only, 25 hectares will be used for the depot buildings. This is about 2 percent of the entire area of the Aarey Milk Colony.[4] But these facts don’t matter to the protestors. If you scream these facts at the top of your voice, it would fall on the deaf ears of the pseudo environmentalists. Here are a few questions one must pose to these protestors, now coming out of hibernation in 2022 when the Aarey Car Depot construction is about to begin.
1. What role does the Bombay Catholic Sabha, a trust, have in the protests? 
2. Is it because a part of a cemetery at Aarey is also included in the construction of Metro Bhavan? [5]
3. Are the lives of the people who are in everyday danger of falling off an overcrowded local train not important to the protestors?
4. Are the above people lesser mortals?
5 Is it not hypocrisy to visit a protest site in fuel-guzzling personal SUVs and other cars?
Climate change is a hot topic nowadays (no pun intended). But perhaps the young ignorant protestors at Aarey believe that planting trees is the only solution to combat climate change. Planting trees is one of the many measures. Using public transport systems like the Mumbai Metro is another when every care has been taken to ensure that more trees have been planted to compensate for the cutting of trees at the proposed car shed. When protests are based on pure emotions rather than facts, there is a doubt regarding the authenticity of protests. In such cases, protests become projects where NGOs, political parties, and influential people harp on the emotions of the people, use them as cannon fodder and make money. The people who suffer the most are common people like us who compulsorily have to use overcrowded trains, buses, and personal vehicles contributing nothing to reducing carbon emissions, instead increasing the same. The years 2019, 2020, and 2021 were marred by protests against Metro Car Shed at Aarey, Citizenship Amendment Act, and the three Farm Laws. CAA has not been implemented, Farms Laws have been scrapped. The modus operandi of the protests was to block roads/highways and fulfill demands. Will Mumbai see such modus operandi in the coming days? We don’t know exactly.
To conclude, the Bombay High Court observed the following while dismissing the petitions against declaring the Aarey colony as a forest and stopping the felling of trees at the car depot area. “Thus, as in the two companion petitions which we have dismissed today, the Greens fail even in these two petitions, but not on account of sailing their boats in the wrong channel, but on merits”. [6] It is high time for the common Mumbaikar to vehemently voice their opinion for the metro car depot and Save Aarey from pseudo environmentalists.

Devesh V. Bagul

Devesh V Bagul is a graduate and works for a private limited company. He is interested in religion, terrorism, counter-terrorism, social issues, and governance.