Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has sought the comfort of numbers to answer environmentalists and green activists opposing the state government’s plan of constructing a carshed for its Metro III train coaches at the Aarey Colony. After activists alleged that constructing the shed at Aarey Colony would result in 350 trees being cut, Fadnavis responded that the alternative would cost the state Rs 1,500 crore more.
Fadnavis told the state assembly on Friday that if the government’s plan of constructing the shed at Aarey Colony falls through, they would have to build one at Kanjurmarg, on the other side of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. This would involve additional expenditure of Rs 1,500 crore, or, if 350 trees are to be saved, Rs 4.28 crore per tree.
Moreover, if the state is to spend more on constructing the Metro shed, the costs would be passed on to the commuters, Fadnavis has warned. By sacrificing 350 trees at the Aarey Colony, Mumbaikars would pay less to travel by the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro corridor. “Either cut the trees or pay more for tickets,” he said, adding that the government would not only compensate for the trees which were cut but also plant 3,000 more trees.
He was responding to a discussion on the budgetary expenditure for urban development and home departments in the legislative assembly. He added that some of the opposition to the carshed plan was based on “misunderstandings and misgivings”. “It’s true that the original plan involved the hacking of 2,300 trees. But we have since revised the details and redesigned certain elements. The new plan would see the chopping of 350-500 trees now,” he added.
The alternative plan the state has in mind involves fallow land near the dumping ground at Kanjurmarg. Construction had already begun on this, but Fadnavis didn’t favour the option. “The land we identified is marshy. If we decide to build the carshed there, it would involve reclaiming this land. This itself would increase the input cost by Rs 1,500 crore. The hike would affect the overall project cost, which would then reflect in increased ticket prices,” Fadnavis said.
Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya have been aggressively opposing using the Aarey Colony land for constructing the shed. The proposal has also met with resistance from green activists and local residents.
Also, lashing out at the Shiv Sena, Fadnavis said he wants to provide Mumbai with a world class transportation network before his tenure is over. “I am not a Mumbaikar. I will return to my home city Nagpur when I retire. But I want to create a Metro network in Mumbai with stations which are 500-metres apart. This would be an improvement on the current railway network, with stations 1-2 kms apart. So when I go back to Nagpur, I want people of Mumbai to realise that it was a Nagpur man who cared for the city,” he said.
Repeated opposition over using the Aarey Colony land for the Metro car shed project has delayed it by over two years. The original 2020 deadline has been revised to 2022 already.