CM Fadnavis sets up expert committee after protests against Metro carshed in Aarey Colony

Following protests by local residents and political parties, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has on Monday constituted an expert committee for detailed study on the issue of proposed Metro-III carshed in Mumbai's Aarey Colony, an area known for its greenery and biodiversity.

Vishwas Waghmode March 02, 2015 20:55:12 IST
CM Fadnavis sets up expert committee after protests against Metro carshed in Aarey Colony

Mumbai: Following protests by local residents and political parties, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has on Monday constituted an expert committee for detailed study on the issue of proposed Metro-III carshed in Mumbai's Aarey Colony, an area known for its greenery and biodiversity.

The chief minister's direction comes after a delegation of Mumbai BJP leaders met him on Monday afternoon. "All possibilities including an alternative place for setting up the Metro carshed and cutting less number of trees, which will submit a report within a month," said Fadnavis. Members appointed to the committee included MMMRDA, BMC, principal secretary of urban development, NEERI director Dr Rakesh Kumar, Dr Ravi Shinha of IIT Mumbai, Dr Rashmi Patil of the Centre of Science and Environment of IIT Mumbai, metro expert GR Madan and the DMRC director.

CM Fadnavis sets up expert committee after protests against Metro carshed in Aarey Colony

Devendra Fadnavis in a file photo. PTI

While Yuva Sena president Aaditya Thackeray welcomed the chief minister’s decision, he hinted that the Metro III project should be scrapped. "The issue is largely about Mumbai, and displacing people and cutting trees can't be allowed. The coastal road, proposed by BMC four years ago, pending with environment ministry, will have mass rapid transport. Metro III might not be needed. We can’t let deforestation happen in our city," he tweeted hoping that MMRDA will prepare a better plan.

It came as a relief to the locals and environmentalists who had opposed the proposal, but they said their fight will continue.

For over three months, Aarey Colony residents have been fighting against the civic body and other government agencies over several issues pertaining to the colony. It had opposed the proposed carshed for Phase III of the Metro project, which would lead to cutting of around 2,500 trees. The residents have also opposed BMC’s move of allowing residential and commercial development in the colony.

Aarey Colony residents are also fighting against BMC’s construction of Goregaon-Mulund Link Road (GMLR) project, the proposed extension of Byculla Zoo and SRA projects in the colony.

"In 2009, I along with few others started planting trees in the vicinity. We became more active when we heard that the Panchvati Garden that has a huge cover of trees will be destroyed for a Force One Commando base in the colony. We protested silently and got the garden excluded from the plan. It was our first victory," said Manish Gadiya, a member of Save Aarey community, speaking to Firstpost.

Gadiya added that the group started organising various activities like tree plantation and photography competitions to showcase the biodiversity in the area. "We also started taking up issues such as encroachment and waste management with Aarey authorities. Now, we are determined to save Aarey from any development in order to save the city’s green cover and biodiversity," he said adding that they have also started an online petition on the issue, which has been signed by over 15,000 people.

He said that the Aarey Colony is spread into 4000 acres and the proposed development activities in the colony may eat into over 500 acres of land.

"The government seems to be insensitive. Aarey Colony is not just a green cover but also a bustling biodiversity hub in the heart of city. Hundreds of animals, birds, spiders, pythons thrive in it. If all these projects are allowed in its in present manner, all this will be destroyed. So, we are moving the National Green Tribunal on the grounds of Right to Life not only for citizens but also animals," said Anand Pendharkar of SPROUTS.

Rishi Agarwal, a member of Save Aarey Community and a city based environmentalist, said that they will now focus on ensuring that the present status of the Aarey Colony remains unchanged in the proposed draft development plan of the civic body. "We are also planning to have a long term vision plan called 'vision Aarey' in which the aspects such legal and illegal settlements, business activities, recreational activities to increase tourism potential with others. It will be prepared consulting all the stakeholders," said Agarwal, who has been raising issues for a couple of years now.

Activists also said that there were 27 adivasi padas in the Aarey Colony and that they should be mapped to provide them the required amenities before going with the colony’s development.

Civic officials say that they have failed in protecting the areas marked as non-development zones (NDZ) and open spaces from encroachments in city. "So, we have decided to go for development of Aarey Colony in a planned and systematic manner which will be accessible to the public," said a senior civic official adding that the regulation 60 of the 1991 Development Control Regulations (DCR) permits construction of certain kinds activities on NDZs that include swimming pools, gymkhanas, golf clubs, stadiums, amusement parks, gardens and parks.

The official added that as per the legal provisions development can be allowed on NDZs and the land could be given to IT companies and educational institutions. "Still, we will hold subject-based consultations with local residents on the development of Aarey Colony, zoo extension, availability of open space amenities and other projects," said the official.

Political parties including Shiv Sena, MNS, AAP and BJP have joined the campaign to save Aarey Colony with an eye on the civic elections to be held in February 2017.

While Fadnavis has said that the carshed of will come up in the Aarey Colony, he said he was willing to have larger consultations with stakeholders because of opposition to the project and also to hear other issues to protect green spaces in city. "It is not full and final. The development plan will be in public domain for suggestions, objections and later it will be discussed by a seven-member committee headed by standing committee chairman and then come to the state government," he had said last week on the proposed draft development plan which allows residential and commercial development in the colony.

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