In a major development, the Bombay High Court has dismissed all petitions praying for declaration of the Aarey Colony in Mumbai as a forest.
The Court dismissed a petition filed by NGO ‘Vanashakti’ that sought a declaration of the Aarey Colony as a forest.
The High Court also dismissed another petition against cutting down of over 2,000 trees for building a Metro depot. The Bombay High Court dismissed a petition by Shiv Sena corporator and Standing Committee Chairman, Yashwant Jadhav. He had prayed examination and quashing of the Tree Authority decision.
Describing the petition as “sheer voyeurism“, the Court also imposed a cost of Rs. 50,000. This has paved the way for construction of a metro car shed. It is important to mention here that on September 20, the Maharashtra government had argued that the Aarey Colony could not be declared as a forest only because of its greenery. Following the High Court order, the felling of trees reportedly began late at night on Friday.
This development comes as a major setback for celebrities and politicians masquerading as environmental activists and climate experts. Massive misinformation campaign on the construction of a metro car depot in Aarey colony of Mumbai had gripped the social media last month.
The extensive misinformation campaign came in the background of the Global Climate Strike which took place between September 20-27. The strike, therefore, started three days before 2019 UN Climate Action Summit that was held at the United Nations Headquarters at New York.
In India, the self-acclaimed protectors of the environment took up the issue of the Aarey Colony. With Bollywood actors like Manoj Bajpayee and Dia Mirza posted tweets about Aarey and also urged fellow citizens to join the climate change strike. It must be noted that actress Dia Mirza, is also a UN Goodwill Ambassador and she was reported to have attended the UN Climate Change Summit, where she was supposed to raise issues in India and possible solutions for them with the UN Secretary-General.
Aarey Forest in Mumbai, Aravalli hills in Gurgaon, the Bullet Train project… destroying green cover for “development” is going to have devastating consequences. It’s time we strike back. Join the #GlobalClimateStrikeIndia in your city from Sep 20-27. #ChangeIsComing
— manoj bajpayee (@BajpayeeManoj) September 19, 2019
#Aarey Forest in Mumbai, #Aravalli hills in Gurgaon, the #BulletTrain project… destroying green cover for “development” is going to have devastating consequences. It’s time we strike back! Join the #GlobalClimateStrikeIndia in your city from Sep 20-27. #ChangeIsComing
— Dia Mirza (@deespeak) September 19, 2019
It is relevant to mention here that the construction of the metro depot had already been cleared by the Supreme Court, however, environmental concerns blown out of proportion and coordinated protests across Mumbai forced the project to halt when it came to the construction of the metro car shed.
Moreover, it had become clear that the concerned land wasn’t forest area but belonged to the Dairy Development Department of the state government.
However, those masquerading as bona fide activists kept claiming that the Maharashtra government was damaging forest area for construction of the metro car shed. The estimation carried out by independent auditors of UNFCC also reveal that the environmental benefits of the metro project far exceed the environmental cost incurred by the felling of trees in Aarey.
Apart from this, a misconception was being created that the entire stretch of land will be used for the metro car shed.
However, the reality is that Aarey Colony is an area of over 1300 hectares out of which 25 hectares of land is required for the metro car depot construction.
The above-mentioned facts make it crystal clear that the campaign against Aarey metro rail depot was based on concoctions, falsehoods and misconceptions. Therefore, the misinformation campaign was as such very weak on facts and ground realities. However, it did create a lot of noise and insofar as that aspect is concerned, it seems to have met its intended goal.
While the protests over Aarey and the entire propaganda seems set to fall in silence because of the Bombay High Court verdict, the fact remains that the protests might have just led to cost overruns in the project. As per a Business Standard report from March this year, line 3 project of the Mumbai Metro, of which the metro rail depot at Aarey Colony is a part is already expected to cost Rs 30,000 crore, as against the earlier estimate of Rs 23,136 crore.
At that time, Ashwini Bhide, Managing Director, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), had said, “There is a gap between the approved cost and the actual completion cost. There is a provision to allow for revised costs, and we have already initiated that process. The gap is for the value of time loss and some changes that occur while implementing the project on ground.” She had already expressed the apprehension that if the proposed depot at Aarey was delayed, there could be a problem. She had also made it clear that earlier there was a cushion for a delay which has now been wiped out.
It has been seven months since this report and it won’t come as a surprise if the project cost witnesses overruns due to the delay over make-believe environmental concerns over the Aarey Colony metro rail coach project.