Amid protests over the Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government’s plan to move back the proposed Metro-3 car shed to Mumbai’s Aarey forest from Kanjurmarg, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday said the opposition to the move by some “pseudo-environmentalists” could be “sponsored”.
Assuring that no more trees will be cut for the project, the senior BJP leader also said that although the environmentalists have the right to express their opinion, they should not ingnore the facts.
“There are some genuine environmental activists, while some are pseudo ones. Their opposition to the car shed is likely to be sponsored. Hence, they continue to oppose the construction of the car shed for Metro-3 line,” he told reporters on the premises of the Vidhan Bhavan here, where a special two-day session of the state Legislative Assembly began on Sunday.
“There is no more need of cutting down trees. The trees that the state wanted to chop down, have already been cut. With all due to respect to the green activists, we will discuss the issues with them. But Metro train service is the right of Mumbai’s citizens,” he said.
From the National Green Tribunal to the Supreme Court, all the authorities have given a permission to the construction of the car shed. Almost 25 per cent work is already done. If the construction is commenced at the Aarey site post-monsoon, it can take one year to complete, Fadnavis added.
“More importantly, the SC itself has observed in its order that the amount of carbon sequestration achieved by the Metro trains through their ferries in 80 days will be equivalent to the cumulative carbon sequestration done by the trees in their lifetime,” he said, referring to the trees that have been chopped down to make space for the construction of the car shed.
The green activists certainly have their right to express their opinions, but they should not ignore the facts, the former chief minister said.
Earlier in the day, environmental activists and some political parties, including the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) staged a protest at Aarey Colony, a green belt in suburban Goregaon, against the Metro-3 car shed proposal.
Holding placards, the protesters raised slogans against the new government’s proposal to shift the Metro-3 car shed project back to Mumbai’s Aarey forest, an 1,800-acre area that is often termed as the megalopolis’s ‘green lung’.
In their first cabinet meeting held soon after their swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, Maharashtra CM Shinde and Fadnavis had directed the state administration to submit a proposal to build the Metro-3 car shed in Aarey Colony instead of Kanjurmarg.
The previous Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government had shifted the proposed car shed site to Kanjurmarg from Aarey Colony on the ground of environment protection, but the issue got embroiled in a legal dispute. The Thackeray government had declared Aarey as a reserved forest.
According to environment activists, the forest not only provides fresh air to people of the city, but it also a key habitat for the wildlife, including some endemic species. The forest has some five lakh trees, and also has a couple of rivers and some lakes flowing through it, they say.
In the first week of October in 2019, during Fadnavis’s tenure as chief minister, clashes had broken out between the police and green activists opposing axing of trees by Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) in the Aarey Colony. A total of 29 activists were arrested for protesting against the felling of trees, but they were later released.